SOC 6670 Mental Health and Aging

Summer 2010




Time and Location:

Wednesday 6:00-9:00, TODD 203


Dr. J. Brandon Wallace

Instructor's Office, Phone and Email:

Todd Hall 330, 898-5976,

Office Hours:

By appointment.


It is the responsibility of each student to read and understand the syllabus. It serves as an agreement between the student and the instructor, specifying the rights and responsibilities of each. Be sure to clarify any questions you may have about the syllabus the first week of class.




SOC 6670 is a graduate seminar focusing on the mental health of older adults.  The course will addresses the historical and cultural contexts that shape our views of aging and mental health, summarize existing research and knowledge relating to specific mental health conditions that affect the aged, review policies and programs shaping the provision of mental health services to the elderly, and explore and evaluate interventions and treatment strategies available for addressing the mental health needs of older adults.  As a graduate seminar, students are expected to take an active role in their learning by doing extensive research and reading and sharing the knowledge gained with the class.  Class time will be divided between lectures by the professor and student lead presentations and discussions.




The required readings for the course come primarily from two sources:  Aging and Mental Health: Positive Psychosocial and Biomedical Approaches (5th Edition) by Robert Butler and Myrna Lewis and Positive Aging: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals and Consumers by Robert Hill.  Both are available in the campus bookstore, but may be purchased elsewhere.  Other readings will be available online or distributed in class. 




Each student enrolled in SOC 6670 will be expected to:


  1. Attend class and actively participate in all discussions.  Attendance and participation are worth 50 points.   
  2. Complete two take-home essay exams.  On each exam, students will have 2-3 weeks to answer four essay questions.  While students are allowed and encouraged to discuss the exam questions with each other, they must write their answers independently.  Each exam is worth 100 points.
  3. Find, read, and summarize three articles, one addressing depression, anxiety, grief or suicide (due June 9); one addressing personality disorders, drug and alcohol problems, or behavioral problems (due June 16); and one addressing Alzheimer’s or other dementias (due June 23).  The article summaries should include the article title, author’s names and affiliations, source (journal or website with specifics), a discussion of the topic/question addressed, the methods used, and the main findings and conclusions, and your critique and assessment of the article.  The selected articles must contain citations and/or references to other research.  Place a copy of the article and your summary in a three-ring binder.  Although the binder is not due until the end of the semester, students should be prepared to present and discuss their articles in class on the due date indicated above.  On each date, a minimum of five students will be asked to present one of their articles, with every student presenting at least once on one of the three dates.  The presentations will be informal, but students should be prepared to answer questions about their article.  The three article summaries are worth 20 points each.  The article presentation and discussion is worth 40 points. 
  4. Interview two different mental health “providers” who deal with elderly patients or clients.  One of these must be a trained mental health professional (psychologist, psychiatrist, clinical social worker, psychiatric nurse, etc.) the other can be any one who works with the elderly who occasionally must deal with mental health issues (physician, nurse, nurse assistant, home health aide, physical therapist, adult day care provider, etc.).  In the interview, the following topics should be discussed:  (a) the agency or organization the person works for including what it does, who it serves, who owns/operates it, how it is funded, its history, etc.; (b) their job including their title, a description of what they do, how long have they worked in their current position, what they did before assuming their present position, how much contact they have with the aged, whether they enjoy working with the elderly, etc.; (c) what kind of education/training they have, have they had specialized training in gerontology/aging, do they consider themselves a gerontologist or aging specialist, do they feel their training was adequate, etc., (d) what is a typical day like for them; (e) what do they see as the most significant mental health issue in late life; (f) their assessment of current mental health services for the elderly; and (g) their suggestions and recommendations for improving mental health services for the elderly.  A typed summary of each interview should be placed in the three-ring binder to be turned in at the end of the semester.  Further, each student will present a summary of one interview to the class.  The presentations will be informal, but students should be prepared to answer questions about their interview.  All students should be prepared to present an interview summary by June 30.  Each interview summary is worth 50 points.  The interview summary presentation and discussion is also worth 50 points. 
  5. Write a 10-20 page paper and present the paper to the class.  The paper may be a traditional research paper in which the student reviews the relevant literature (a minimum of 20 sources) on an approved topic and summarizes the “state of knowledge” regarding the topic.  This is not a summary of 20 or more separate articles.  It is an integrated and consolidated discussion of what is known about the topic that references and cites at least 20 different sources.  The second option is to write a paper providing an in depth discussion of an agency, organization, or program that provides mental health services to the aged.  A minimum of 5 sources, including, but not limited to, a site visit, interviews with personnel (counts as one source), official publications such as mission statements, organizational charts, annual reports, etc., and other articles or reports written by or about the agency.  The presentation will be a formal presentation lasting at least 20 minutes in which students are required to use PowerPoint or similar presentation software.  Guidance will be provided for any students not familiar with presentation software.  All students should be prepared to present their papers on August 4.   The written paper is worth 100 points, as is the presentation to the class.




A total of 700 points is possible.  Each student’s point total will be divided by 7 to determine their final grade.  Grades will be assigned according to the following scale: 90-100=A, 87-89=B+, 83-86=B, 80-82=B-, 77-79=C+, 73-76=C, 70-72=C-, 67-69=D+, 63-66=D, 60-62=D-, and less than 60=F.




Copying someone's work, having someone complete papers or other assignments for you, and plagiarism (claiming another's written work as you own, including materials obtained from the internet) will be considered cheating. Students engaging in such acts may not only be given a zero on the exam or assignment in question, but may fail the course as well. Additionally, the professor may report such actions to appropriate university officials for subsequent action, including probation or suspension. (See the Student Handbook.)




If you have a disability that requires assistance or accommodation, or if you have any questions related to accommodations for testing, note taking, reading, etc., please speak with me as soon as possible.  You may also contact the Office of Disabled Student Services (898-2783) with questions about their services. Students registered with the Office of Disabled Student Services will be accommodated as best as possible.


Additional information of interest to sociology students is available on the Department of Sociology and Anthropology web page at  Additional information of interest to gerontology students is available on the Aging Studies web page at