The Older Adult Studies Program is a Program of Study. You must be accepted first to SSA and then by the individual Program of Study. SSA students apply to Programs of Study during the winter of their first year.


The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration alumni are leaders in the field of aging. Our graduates are able to shape responses to a graying population by developing public policy, managing agencies and services, and defining clinical practice. With baby boomers reaching retirement age, there will be an increased demand for geriatric social workers to address the needs of adults age 65 and older. Social workers bring strong assessment, problem-solving, and advocacy skills to the care team, coupled with an understanding of an older person’s strengths and resiliency.


The School of Social Service Administration designed the Older Adult Studies Program to meet the challenge of an aging society by preparing its graduates to become leaders in the field of aging. This program combines an understanding of the person-in-environment as well as an awareness of the web of institutional relationships linking the older adult to society and social policy.

Through a strong partnership between the University and its community field work partners, SSA’s Older Adult Studies Program is designed to ensure a well-rounded, effective educational program to foster student leadership skills in geriatrics.


Features of the program include competency-based education, field placements, and field rotations. Students measure their competencies in five domains: Values, Ethics, and Theoretical Perspectives; Assessment; Interventions; Aging Services, Programs, and Policies; and Leadership.

Students interested in working with older adults take either the clinical or social administration concentration, two required courses, and a placement in which they work with older adults. Students take Health and Aging Policy (49032) and a choice of Aging and Mental Health (42100), Introduction to Aging: 21st Century Perspectives (61200), or Current Topics in Aging and Long-Term Care:  Implications for Practice (65200).

We offer a rotation model for field learning which provides the student maximum exposure to the aging person and the services and systems designed to support older people and their families.

Financial Aid

A limited number of stipends are awarded each year to students who participate in the Older Adult Studies Program.

Information about additional grants, fellowships and stipends available to students interested in pursuing a career in the field of aging can be obtained through the Dean of Students’ office.

Field Placement

There are a wide range of organizations and professionals who recognize the importance of mentoring social workers and increasing the exposure that social work students have to older people and the issues faced by an aging society. Field placement opportunities for work with older adults include hospitals, multi-service agencies, nursing homes, adult day service centers, senior centers, the Illinois Department on Aging, agencies serving a wide range of ethnic populations, foundations, mental health centers, and advocacy organizations.

Career Opportunities

Social workers who specialize in aging find careers in a wide range of settings: hospitals and nursing homes, in senior centers and in Area Agencies on Aging where they develop and coordinate programs. Social workers are involved at the local, state and federal level in developing and advocating for policies that create an aging-friendly society. Opportunities are also found in clinical settings providing mental health services for the older adult, working with two- and three-generational families and working with family care givers. 


Phyllis Mitzen
Older Adult Studies Program

Bria Berger

Bria Berger, AM '14

“It’s important to have transferable skills and to have a professional mentor. Working with [Assistant Professor] Alida Bouris has helped me both personally and professionally. She has encouraged me to mold my course schedule and placement to my interest and goals, to take risks, and she has helped me shape my vision of who I am in the social work world.”