Introductory texts often establish two broad themes in relation to older people in society. First, societies are ageing and this poses a problem for policy-makers in terms of finance and long-term care systems. Second, the growth in the numbers of older people will necessarily be accompanied by a rise in illnesses, vulnerabilities and social difficulties of old age that will put untold pressure on statutory and other services. These considerations lie largely outside the personal experiences of social workers, but they do set a context for practice. Societies are undoubtedly ageing (the first point) but research offers evidence to temper the enthusiasm with which the second point has been articulated. Research evidence also leads us to pause slightly and examine just who it is that the social worker, working with older people, might routinely offer help to.
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