Work with the Elderly?
Why Everyone Should (at Some Point in Their Lives)
Dining services. Caregiving. Transportation. Coordinating activities. These are just a few of the multitude of careers that provide ample opportunities to spend quality time with the elderly. Whether you’re seeking employment at an independent living community, assisted living community, nursing home, memory care community, or even a community senior center or home health care agency, careers are plentiful. Compassionate employees are in high demand all across the senior living industry, with opportunities spanning careers such as:
- Dining service professionals
- Direct caregiving roles, such as certified nurses’ aides or nursing assistants
- Activities professionals and assistants
- Drivers to provide transport for seniors to appointments and activities
Despite the abundant opportunities in the field, many young people forego seeking jobs in the senior living industry, instead opting for roles like retail sales. It’s a travesty, really, as bright, up-and-coming professionals stand to reap tremendous benefits from working with the elderly. In fact, everyone should take an opportunity to work with the elderly at some point throughout their careers. Here’s why.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The reality is there are both upsides and downsides to working with the elderly, but in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The downside, the fact that many aging adults can be quite blunt, may expose those who have the privilege of working with them to the attitudes and ideals common to generations of the past. With the average age of assisted living residents falling in at 86 years young, they’ve certainly earned their right to be blunt. At worst, you may hear terms and slang common to past generations that make you uncomfortable. At best, you’re going to hear some fantastic stories of war, love, triumph, and determination that inspire you to live your life to the fullest every moment of every day. A fair tradeoff, I’d say.
You’ll Hear First-Hand Stories from Pivotal Points in History
The stories…oh, the stories you’ll hear when you take the opportunity to work with the aging members of society. These stories are first-hand accounts of what it was like to live through some of the most difficult periods in history, stories that are disappearing daily. The Silver Tsunami is indeed upon us. By the year 2030, one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. In 2010, people began turning 65 years old at a rate of 10,000 people every day, a trend that will continue for another 15 years. These people won’t be in assisted living communities for another 20 years or so, but in the meantime, we have the honor of working with individuals who lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II and experienced the aftermath of the war on society, those who saw the grand spike in the economy, and those who first experienced the idea of women working, which happened during the war. When you take the opportunity to serve as a nursing assistant, a registered nurse, or even a volunteer in a senior living community, you have an opportunity that not many people have: to hear these stories and share them with your own friends and family, to do your part in passing history on to up-and-coming generations. In a way, you’re not only helping the elderly live out their final years in contentment, but you’re helping them continue to live on through their powerful stories long after they’ve left this earth.
Nursing and Other Caregiving Talent Shortages Expected to Continue
Not only are there many benefits to you in working with the elderly, but you’ll be providing a much-needed service. Registered nursing, for example, is a field poised for job growth through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2012-2022. Yet, there’s a current shortage of professionals in the field that’s expected to continue in the coming years, especially as Baby Boomers enter their senior years and begin to require more healthcare services. Like nursing, Certified Nursing Aides are in high demand, and shortages of professionals and para-professionals in the caregiving workforce have been predicted since back in 2003. There continues to be an increased demand for a variety of caregiving roles and other professionals serving the senior living industry across the board, a trend set to continue for many years to come. Certainly that’s compelling enough evidence to suggest that caregiving- and healthcare-related professions would be a wise career choice for today’s emerging professionals. But the benefits to both you and the elderly residents or individuals you have the opportunity to work extend far beyond job security.
A Rich Experience That Might Just Determine Your Future Career Path in Assisted Living
There’s a wealth of history just waiting for someone in their teens or early 20’s to experience when they choose to work with the elderly. For many, what begins as a part-time job to earn some money in high school or college leads to a spark, an a-ha moment that will inspire them to pursue a lifelong career path working with the eldest members of our society who have so much to offer us. Working with the elderly, even serving as a volunteer in an assisted living community or nursing home to gain some valuable experience for classwork or for personal development, can provide the inspiration for a young person to discover and further develop their natural inclination to nurture, care for, and provide companionship to elderly residents who are no longer with their families. Some residents don’t have family, or have families who live great distances away. For these residents, the compassionate, enthusiastic young people who care for them become their family – and this is one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. There’s a piece of history being lost every day, and you have the opportunity to capture it first-hand. Don’t pass it up. While it’s true that the elderly need more compassionate people to care for them, you need them just as much as they need you. Take the opportunity to experience working with the elderly, even if just for a short time. You won’t regret it.