Field education is an integral aspect of every social work student’s training. Whether a student is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) in the hope of pursuing a career in generalist practice or working toward a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to prepare for advanced or independent work, learning skills and practice techniques in community settings is essential. The work that is performed by students in the field is supervised by social workers in many different organizational and practice settings. The relationship between the field instructor and the social work student provides fertile ground for socialization as a member of a profession and the acquisition of practice skills. Whether we are working in health care, child protection, mental health services, corrections, education, gerontology, or another area of social work practice, we have much important knowledge to share with a student.
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In the previous chapter, we examined some of the cultural and contextual factors impacting development in late adulthood. This stage of life is typically characterized as starting in the mid 60s and continuing into the 80s, 90s, or until the end of the natural lifespan. In this chapter, we look at developmental theories, models, and research about older adults, and strive to understand how to apply these theories to work with adults in late adulthood. As it is important to always view developmental theories with a critical eye, we include both critiques of the theories presented, and recent and relevant research and writings about how these theories inform our understanding of older adults. Using the case of Rose, our fictional client introduced in the previous chapter, we will present psychosocial development theory (Erikson), human potential stages (Cohen), bioecological theory (Bronfenbrenner), and the ecological theory of aging (Lawton). We include additional cultural and contextual factors of aging impacting development, and conclude with thoughts from two experts from the field, Dr. William Barkley and Dr. Nina Nabors.