New Partnership between University of Connecticut and The Institute of Living to Support Innovative Program for Social Work Students in Aging Care

Hartford, CT – University of Connecticut School of Social Work’s (UCSSW) Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education (HPPAE) is collaborating with The Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital to educate and prepare social workers in the area of geriatric social work. The HPPAE at the University of Connecticut specifically targets under-represented populations in the field of gerontology, such as Latino and African American students. In a recent effort to sustain the enriched learning experiences of MSW students, UCSSW partnered with the Institute of Living to receive generous support for their program from the North Central Area Agency on Aging.

The North Central Area Agency on Aging (NCAAA) will provide annual stipends of $3,000 to each of 10 students participating in the Hartford Partnership Program. A vital part of the aging services network in the State, NCAAA is a regional non-profit organization based in Hartford that provides planning and management of funding and advocacy for services to older persons and their caregivers in the 38-town North Central Connecticut region.

Over one-fourth of all families in Hartford are below the poverty line; over one-third earn less than $15,000. The percent of families living in poverty in Hartford is five times greater than the state. Similarly, older persons (65+)[1] have significantly higher rates of poverty in Hartford than in the state or country (2.2% compared to 0.9% and 1.2% respectively). And although 2.2% appears small, it represents (U.S. Census 2000) 2,575 real people. Hartford is also a city comprised predominantly of minority populations.

Within Hartford’s elderly population, 40.4% are male and 59.6% are female. (These are similar to state and national figures, with a slightly higher percentage of females). Of the 15,762 seniors (over 60) living in Hartford, 19.6% are Hispanic, 35.4% are black or African American, and 47.1% are white. And of those over 65, less than two-thirds (62.2%) speak only English (compared to 83.4% and 87.4% for the state and nation respectively). 16.3% speak Spanish.

“It’s critical to prepare practitioners who are representatives of racial and ethnic minority groups that make up our older adult population in the City of Hartford. As the older adult population in the U.S. becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, it becomes increasingly more important for schools of social work and service providers to prepare practitioners to meet the needs of these older adults. One way to do so is to offer educational models that are culturally specific and competency-based, so that students can become culturally competent with skills, knowledge, ethics and values that enable them to contribute to the dismantling of existing disparities in health and social services currently experienced by older adults. These elements are major components of the HPPAE at the University of Connecticut. Graduate level social work students to take advantage of competency-based intensive group education modules, content- enriched seminars taught by faculty and field instructors, as well as in-service trainings facilitated by renowned practitioners, gerontology researchers and educators.

The New York Academy of Medicine and the John A. Hartford Foundation awarded Karen Bullock a $75,000 grant to develop the HPPAE program at the UConn School of Social Work. “To sustain this innovative educational model, we looked to the NCAAA, a community-based agency that understands the critical labor-force need in our region,” said Dr. Bullock, director of the HPPAE. “I am working closely with Eugene Hickey at the Institute of Living (IOL) to identify resources that will enable us to increase the amount of the stipends and recruit more students of color.”

The University of Connecticut, first established an HPPAE in 2006. The funds from the NCAAA will help to sustain their HPPAE in future years. The collaboration between UCSSW and Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living makes it possible for students to focus their area of study on older adults, while attaining field experience in a geriatric social work setting for intensive practicum experience.

With the HPPAE education and preparation students will become leaders in the field and the profession will be more representative of the populations we are committed to serving. Most importantly, the needs of racial and ethnic minority older adults can be more adequately addressed when practitioners have received high level, competency-based, culturally appropriate education and training. Thanks to the support of the NCAAA, the University of Connecticut and Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living will sustain the practicum partnership.

For more information regarding the practicum partnership program the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, an affiliate of the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education, please contact Karen Bullock: 860-570-9148,


[1] The U.S. Census (2000) age categories for these data are 18 – 64 and 65 and above. As a result, the figures presented are for the 65+ population, not the 60+ population.

[2] Percentages do not add up to 100% because: a) the chart does not contain data for other populations, e.g. Asian and Native American; and b) people can identify themselves on the U.S. Census in multiple ways, e.g. white and Hispanic, two races, etc.