With the national health care debate as a backdrop, Mason’s social work students partnered with AARP— a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people age 50 and older improve their quality of life—to discover the health care needs of older adults and bring to light the challenges they face.
With their project, Voices for Change: Project Health Care, the students each interviewed two older adults facing challenges with care giving, insurance, or pre-existing health conditions. AARP representatives frequently came to the classroom throughout the semester to familiarize the students with the organization and its goals of advocating for older adults.
“This was a great opportunity to learn how to make a positive change within the community,” says AARP project participant Rachel Valentine, BSW ’10.
“Most of those whom we interviewed had experienced significant challenges with their health. We hope that our findings will have a lasting impact within the health care debate.”
“We are very proud of these students for giving a voice to those who otherwise may not be heard,” says Shirley Travis, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “These emerging social workers learned firsthand about the value and process of advocacy and engagement in health and social policy debate.”
Although the project is over, the personal stories live on. Thanks to the students’ work, AARP has increased its database of narratives that can be used in future AARP publications, in debate on Capitol Hill, or with the media to inform the public of health care issues facing older Americans.