Social work in a world of longevity

Andreas Schneider during his talk

Report on the Social Work Science Day at St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences

On May 15th, the Social Work Science Day 2018 at St. Pölten UAS was devoted to aspects of social work with the elderly and their relatives under the title "Self-Empowerment, Networking, Protection of Adults".

Society of longevity

The number of elderly people in Austria is increasing. By international comparison, the standard of living is relatively high; healthcare and social security are relatively good. The result is not the term "ageing society", which has a negative connotation, but can better be described as a "society of longevity".

The opening speech on Social Work Science Day was delivered by sociologist Franz Kolland from the University of Vienna on the topic of ageing in Lower Austria. According to Kolland, elderly people are a very heterogeneous group, and concepts for optimal ageing should be developed.

Johannes Pflegerl, Head of the Ilse Arlt Institute for Social Inclusion Research at St. Pölten UAS and organiser of the event, introduced research work with senior citizens and their relatives in the community, which has been conducted by the Institute for Social Work. "Social work provides help for affected individuals as well as groups in coping with life’s challenges in the context of daily life. As a sociopolitical entity, it can make a significant contribution to dealing with practical and social problems and take preventative measures to avoid them. At present, social work occupies a marginal position with the elderly and their relatives, but in a “society of longevity” it could become a growing field of activity", explained Pflegerl.

Aging, dementia and digitalisation

Andreas Schneider, Head of the Lower Austrian Psychiatry-Coordination Office in the Lower Austrian Health and Social Fund (NÖGUS), presented demands on social work in the context of the Lower Austrian Dementia Strategy. "Social work in all its facets will take on an important role in the future as a link between those affected and medicine, care or local and regional factors, for example, government authorities. The challenge in the future will be to provide

highly-qualified support for those affected, their relatives and caregivers", said Schneider.

According to Schneider, it will be necessary among other things, to make current digital technologies "fit for use" and to integrate them into everyday social life for the support of people with dementia, their relatives and other caregivers. Schneider believes that ultimately social work should create a way for people with dementia to integrate themselves into society and their environment, which will require a thorough and dementia-oriented training.

Barbara Kurz-Kühleitner from the Lower Austrian National Association for Custodianship spoke about the Protection of Adults Act and its importance in the context of caring for the elderly. Birgit Meinhard-Schiebel from the Family Caregivers Interest Group presented best-practice models in social work with the elderly and their relatives.

Workshops, student research projects, international exchange

Included in the programme were workshops on a variety of social-work topics as well as presentations of research projects from the Master and Bachelor study programmes of St. Pölten UAS. One of the workshops was organised and conducted by students from the Dutch Saxion University of Applied Sciences in Enschede, a partner university of St. Pölten UAS.

Social Work Science Day 2018. Self-Empowerment, Networking, Protection of Adults. Social work with the elderly and their relatives. 15.05.2018, St. Pölten UAS.

The Social Work Science Day is an event organised by the Ilse Arlt Institute for Social Inclusion Research at St. Pölten UAS. The Arlt Institute is occupied with scientific social-work research and development with a focus on: development of democracy and participation, health and social care as well as method development and social diagnostics.

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