Aging & Diversity: Ethics &Trauma as we Age

featured image by Michael Marsh on Unsplash

UNE School of Social Work partnered with UNE’s Center for Excellence in Aging and Health and Area Agency on Aging for Western Maine, SeniorsPLUS  to organize this year’s annual Training in Aging and Diversity (TRIAD):

Aging & Diversity: The Intersection of Ethics & Trauma as we Age

The training featured a Trauma presentation by Assistant Professor and Trauma Certificate Coordinator, Arabella Pérez, MSW, LCSW, followed by a Case Base Collaborative Learning Session facilitated by Assistant Clinical Professors, Craig Owens, MSW, LCSW and Frank Brooks, MSW, PhD, LCSW.

The case study, as part of the case base learning session, depicted a portrait of a 71-year-old white cisgender man, Michael Shepard, who identifies as a Vietnam War army combat veteran.  His physician referred him to behavioral health services out of her concern around emergent physical, social, and behavioral health issues.  Michael is a complex character who faces many dynamic challenges that are representative of those faced by many older adults here in Maine and in many rural areas throughout the nation.  The conference attendees worked in small groups to address specific questions around the case.  For example:


  • What are your initial thoughts about Michael and his current health and social circumstances? What common issues of aging are present? What concerns were unexpected or surprising? What ethical issues are posed?
  • How does a trauma-informed perspective influence assessment of Michael’s health, desires, and circumstances? Identify and prioritize areas for intervention, support, and care.
  • What barriers might you encounter in developing a relationship with Michael? What cultural and contextual factors should you consider? How might you address these?
  • Michael is reluctant to engage with those outside his comfort zone. Who might be optimal members of Michael’s care team and how would you collaborate with other workers and professionals to achieve his stated goal “to continue to earn a living and stay independent for as long as possible”?

The group then debriefed as a whole.  “It was a great presentation and discussion.  I learned a lot about interprofessional collaboration,” shared one student.  “The trauma presentation was well done and informative of ethical treatment with trauma impacted individuals,” shared another attendee, “and the hands on activity was a nice way to tie everything together.” Once the morning activities wrapped up, conference attendees filtered out and the TRIAD team set up for the afternoon activities…

Interactive Afternoon Activities 

Current Training in Aging and Diversity (TRIAD) Certificate MSW students collaborated with SeniorsPLUS to organize the afternoon event:

Artful Living: Meaning Making Through Art, Story, and Movement

The event was thoughtfully designed with older populations in mind and was advertised specifically to SeniorsPLUS clients.


Students set up stations around the room that each featured a different activity.  Activities included journal making, chair yoga, storytelling, singalongs, a DIY trail mix buffet, and a make your own terrarium station. “I’m 82 years old, so I’ve been around,” shared one of the SeniorsPLUS clients who attended, “It was great having the opportunity to interact with so many people and hear their stories.  The students were friendly, engaging and had lots of humor. Thanks for this opportunity!”

The students expressed similar sentiment, sharing they also enjoyed hearing stories from those who attended while enjoying creative and thoughtful activities together.

So, what’s this Training in Aging and Diversity (TRIAD) all about anyway? 

These TRIAD events are offered as part of the Training in Aging and Diversity (TRIAD) Project.

The project is two fold:

  1. Increase the number of behavioral health professionals practicing in rural and under-served areas of Maine
  2. Increase knowledge about the behavioral health needs of diverse older adults

Supported by a U.S. Department Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) and Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) grant, the project provides a $10,000 stipend to each UNE M.S.W. student who pursues the TRIAD Certificate. Students can apply as a Traditional TRIAD student and receive quality training in providing clinical services to diverse aging populations 55+, or as a TRIAD Fellow and receive specialized training in working with substance use disorders in diverse aging populations 45+.*Students need to indicate on their application whether they are applying to be Traditional TRIAD or TRIAD Fellow.

UNE has trained over 1200 providers since receiving the grant and looks forward to more training in the future.  Perhaps we’ll catch you at the next one!

For more information about Training in Aging in Diversity Certificate and $10,000 Stipend Opportunity visit: UNE TRIAD