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Click hear to watch a video with Dr. Chapin talking about her career and dedication to serving older adults.

Transforming Aging
Dedicated research to improve the quality of life for older adults
Recently one of our faculty, Dr. Rosemary Chapin, was named a 2016 Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers Foundation in recognition of her scholarship and policy advocacy work. We would like to take this opportunity to highlight the lifetime of work that Dr. Chapin has contributed to improving the quality of life for older adults, fighting for policy change, and educating future social workers. Dr. Chapin has worked to reshape our vision of aging.
The oldest of the baby boom generation has now reached the age of retirement, and as their numbers grow, they will have a significant impact on the economy, health care systems and the future of other retirees. This generation is known to be diverse, educated, and engaged, which will be valuable assets for their own productive aging and also for continuing to contribute to their community. Many are active and want to stay active as they age. They have much to contribute to solving the most urgent challenges of our time, and can be vital mentors for younger generations. Further, baby boomers are anticipated to be more actively engaged in their health and long term care decisions than prior generations. Although baby boomers have these many strengths to carry them through their older years, they also face many challenges and barriers. Health and long term care costs continue to rise, even as many baby boomers lost much of their retirement savings during the Great Recession. Additionally, there is a shortage of qualified caregivers and geriatric providers to meet growing demand. One KU researcher predicted these impacts early in her career and has dedicated over 40 years of her work to improving the quality of life of older adults and their families and increasing opportunities for them to contribute to society.

Dr. Chapin's research indicates that key to supporting aging well is helping older adults to remain socially engaged and in their communities, and to avoid unnecessary hospitalization and institutionalization. One particular study showed how the U.S. can save money by expanding Medicaid programs designed specifically to help low-income, older adults and individuals with disabilities, remain in their homes; for example, by screening all nursing home applicants, identifying institutionalization risk factors, and improving referrals and counseling on community based options. This pioneering longitudinal study has had significant impact on policies nationally as well as in Kansas. Dr. Chapin also piloted a program to expedite Medicaid services, showing that when individuals were able to begin receiving home services within a week of Medicaid application, they often could avoid admission to a nursing home or could drastically reduce their stay time and return to their homes.
To support this work, Dr. Chapin founded one of the longest continuously funded gerontological research centers in a school of social work in the United States. The Center for Research on Aging and Disability Options (CRADO). CRADO, currently directed by Dr. Chapin and co-directed by Dr. Carrie Wendel-Hummell, works to maximize the health and wellbeing of older adults and people with disabilities, and increase the options they have for aging well and living independently in their communities. For over 25 years, KU School of Social Welfare researchers, led by Dr. Chapin, have worked to document the effectiveness of home and community based services for older adults.

CRADO's research is nationally recognized and has helped influence state and federal long-term care reform. They have identified troubling gaps in mental health services for older adults and developed projects that demonstrated the effectiveness of strengths based peer support in reducing depression for this population. They have also demonstrated that older adults with comorbid physical and mental health conditions can successfully discharge from nursing home placements and thrive in the community.
CRADO staff are currently working with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disabilities Services to develop a universal standardized assessment instrument for people receiving long term supports and services through a number of the Medicaid Waivers. In this interdisciplinary project, CRADO is partnering with researchers from the KU Life Span Institute and the KU Medicaid Center. They are also currently developing collaborative research with the Veteran’s Administration and crafting initiatives to increase volunteer opportunities for people aging with disabilities. CRADO also helps to educate BSW, MSW, and PhD students, many of whom go on to become leaders in the aging field.
During Dr. Chapin's early experiences as a social worker, she saw first-hand how ill-conceived policies can have a damaging effect on her clients. These experiences solidified and drove her desire to fight for policy change and to educate social workers about how policies affect their practice. After receiving her doctorate, she began to change how BSW and MSW students learn about national and international social work policy. Her passion for educating the next generation of social workers motivated her to author a widely used textbook, now in its 4th edition, titled: Social Policy for Effective Practice: A Strengths Approach. This text is designed to infuse aging and disability content into core social work policy classes.
In recognition of her scholarship and policy advocacy work, particularly her conceptual work on the application of the strengths perspective with older adults and in policy practice, and her research in support of the growth of state Medicaid Home and Community Based Services, Dr. Chapin received one of the highest honors given by her profession. In 2016 she was named a Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers Foundation.

Dr. Chapin receiving the Social Work Pioneer award at the National Association of Social Workers Foundation luncheon.


Center for Research on Aging and Disability Options

Rosemary Chapin
Professor, CRADO Director

Carrie Wendel-Hummell
CRADO AssistantDirector
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