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Systems Approach at Senior Centers Part 1

By: Anna Pekrul, BSW, MSW Candidate, Kovir LLC Associate

What is Systems Theory?

Social workers who utilize Systems Theory in their practice believe: “It is not possible to understand the whole without recognizing how the component parts interact, affect and change each other. As the parts interact, they create the character and function of the whole” (Howe, 2009). 

To visualize Systems Theory, think about how a central heating system works. When it gets too cold inside your house, it’s usually a pretty simple fix. You get up, set your thermostat a few degrees higher, and wait. Within a few minutes, you’ll start to feel the heat coming from your vents. It happens so quickly and easily that people tend not to think about what is happening behind the scenes. As soon as you set a different temperature, the thermostat sends an electrical signal to the boiler to turn on. Once it has been signaled, the boiler will begin to heat up water and then send that hot water to the radiator that heats up your home. Once the temperature inside reaches what it is set to, the thermostat will send another signal to the boiler to turn off. This cycle is then repeated over and over again, keeping your home at a relatively constant temperature (Howe, 2009). 

Systems theory can be used to address both individual and organizational behavior, especially older adults and agencies that serve older adults, such as senior centers. In the next post, we will examine how the Systems Theory Approach, which examines inputs, process, outputs, and feedback, can be used to address and change organizational behavior, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of this method. 


Howe, D. (2009). A brief introduction to social work theory. Palgrave Macmillan. 

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