Phyllis Mitzen

Phyllis Mitzen

Chair, Older Adults SIG


“Five years ago, Marcia Spira and Joel Rubin called the first meeting of the NASW Illinois Chapter Older Adults Shared Interest Group (SIG), and I jumped at the opportunity to participate. My interest in the field of aging was sparked in the late 1960s with the untimely illness and death of my father. That was also the watershed decade of Medicare and Medicaid. The bio-psychosocial focus of social work seemed the best fit to address the issues I was exposed to while working in nursing homes and a social service agency during the 1970s. I joined NASW when I entered the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration in 1978 to become a social worker. Almost forty years later I remain convinced that this is the case. Unfortunately, the profession has been slow to rise to the challenge. Until that first meeting of the Older Adults SIG, I had not participated in any organized effort that brought aging and NASW together. Five years later, the SIG gives us a lively forum to identify, educate, and advocate for the critical roles that social workers can and should play in the evolution of health care and to address issues of aging in our aging society—issues such as care coordination as a critical and legitimate role for social workers, social work in institutional settings, and working with older adults within the family system. There are also mental health issues and the devastating toll of dementias; fighting disparities and ageism in health care and social service systems and within the profession itself. I’m excited about the impact that my colleagues in the SIG have had in NASW and anticipate much more in the future.”


For more information about getting involved with the NASW Illinois Chapter Older Adults SIG, please visit http://www.naswil.org/naswil/sigs/older-adults-sig/.


Phyllis Mitzen is co-director of the Center for Long-term Care Reform at Health and Medicine Policy Research Group. The center promotes public policy responding to the identified long-term care needs of older persons, their families, and caregivers. She serves on a number of statewide advisory boards and commissions to achieve that end. She also coordinates the Older Adult Studies Program for the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. For twenty-four years Phyllis worked for the Council for Jewish Elderly where she developed and managed many of CJE’s home- and community-based services. With Martha Holstein, she is co-editor of the book, Ethics in Community-Based Elder Care.


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