Section 4: The needs of older workers vs. social care work
The focus of a social worker is the welfare of people, families and communities. Social workers act as advocates and they help clients learn new skills to help them live effectively and meaningfully.
They counsel others who need help, and connect them with resources within their communities. A social worker protects the vulnerable and ensures that their best interests are upheld.
Really, the desire, I just felt a kind of vocation… I wanted to do something that was a bit more hands on and more about supporting individuals with their day-to-day living, and to try to ensure that they had the best quality of life possible. (UK Care Worker)
As the population ages we will need more social workers with expertise in geriatrics, whose focus is in working with adults aged 65 and above.
The priority of a geriatric social worker is to maintain as well as enhance the quality of life for older adults. This often includes helping with physical challenges that accompany ageing, mental health and wellness, and cultural barriers that older individuals may face in society .
Many social care workers are interested in transitioning from social care to social work, in order to represent and advocate for the people they care for.
Why recruit older people for social care roles?
There are at least two key reasons for recruiting older people into social care:
- The social care sector needs workers. The UK government projects that the number of people in social care work will need to increase 50% over the size it is today in order to meet rising demands. Employers will need to recruit a broader range of ages, including older workers, many of whom will be either returning from a career break or seeking a new direction in work.
- Older workers score highly in leadership, detail-oriented tasks, organisation, listening, writing skills and problem solving. But perhaps the greatest asset older workers bring is experience — their workplace wisdom. They have learned how to get along with people, solve problems without drama and call for help when necessary. Experience also helps older workers compensate for the physical and mental changes that accompany ageing. 
Many of the care workers we spoke with talked about the importance of feeling valued by other health and social care professionals, in terms of the role they play looking after the well-being of clients.
Social care workers can be the ‘front-line’ in delivery of care. Having day to day contact with their clients, they can be the first to spot support that is needed by those they are caring for or when their circumstances change. They can therefore be key to delivering faster and more responsive service.
To tap into care workers’ skills, other health and social care professionals with whom they work need to recognise and respect their experience and knowledge.
Unlike in the UK, the older people who are employed in Malaysia are more likely to be professionals, rather than from the lower or medium classes.
Many of these people still need to generate income even after retirement in order to survive for the increasing number of years they will live for.
Some of those we spoke with told us that creating job opportunities for older people have been challenging in Malaysia, especially when employment is also an issue among the newly graduated youths and adults.
Older care workers can play an important role in delivering a better care for the elderly. However, it requires rethinking their role and perhaps some retraining in order to tap into their skills and experience. In the next section, we will discuss ways in which care work can be redesigned to meet the needs of a 21st century care service.Jump to course navigation
 Lucette, A. (2014). Social Workers’ Role in Senior Care. SeniorsZen, Canadian Senior Living Experts. Available at https://www.seniorszen.com/blog/2014/08/26/social-workers-role-senior-care
 Reade, N (2015). The Surprising Truth About Older Workers. AARP The Magazine. Available at https://www.aarp.org/work/job-hunting/info-07-2013/older-workers-more-valuable.html