Innovations in Aging Program Adds Skills to the Toolbox of Dependent Care Specialist

March 2, 2022


Eileen Lawless, MSW serves as Dependent Care Specialist for the University of Arizona Life & Work Connections—a role in which she helps university staff and faculty who are caregivers of adults and elders.

Eileen already has a graduate degree in social work, but this past year she decided to further her education and keep her finger on the pulse of the latest in aging as there is an increased need for this specialized knowledge in her field. She explored several different graduate programs, but when she learned about the Innovations in Aging graduate interdisciplinary program from one of its founders, gerontologist Amanda Sokan, PhD, MHA, LL.B from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, she felt like she finally found the perfect fit.

Eileen has been participating in the Innovations in Aging graduate interdisciplinary program while maintaining her full-time career. By intentional design, she can complete the 5-week courses through self-guided, online coursework around her busy professional schedule, and she insists the online experience is better than she could have hoped for.

"All the professors have been incredibly supportive and available, which is something I was initially unsure about, going back to school in an online environment. But each professor has been absolutely wonderful.”

At first, Eileen was a little intimidated to be a non-traditional student in health sciences courses. However, she quickly overcame self-doubt when she saw she was performing well in her classes and learning innovations to incorporate into her work with caregivers of older adults.

“I have learned so much and gained many tools and strategies to use in my career,” explained Eileen.

Through the completion of her coursework thus far, Eileen feels like her lens on aging has shifted, and that she is developing a greater platform to make a difference in the field of aging.

"As much as the reality of aging challenges us, we often tend to focus on the burden of what older adults cannot do.  Whether that be because of the aging process, or chronic or cognitive challenges, each class changed my ‘lens’ from focusing on generalizations and stereotypical thinking to seeing the older person as an autonomous individual with immense resilience and strength who offers contributions to our families, communities, culture, and our society.  Through advocacy, policy, research, and education we can change the culture of ageism to one where our older community is upheld and revered, as they so deserve.”

To learn more about the University of Arizona’s 13-credit, fully online Innovations in Aging graduate certificate program visit

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