I came across a story about a recent college graduate who spent a summer living at a senior living community. I have to admit that my immediate reaction was one of shock – as I usually picture twenty-somethings fresh out of college moving to a big city to pursue their dreams, not to a senior living community.
It turns out that Kari Gringberg was part of a pilot project that Fair Haven East, Hearthstone, a WesleyLife retirement community in Pella, Iowa launched with her college. According to the story, “It's one of a growing number of such projects around the country designed to bring together senior living residents and younger adults for short or extended periods of time.”
However, it had one other, possibly unforeseen, outcome. It opened up Grindberg’s eyes to the rewarding aspects of working with the elderly. As a result of her experience and exposure to the the senior care industry, Grindberg, a biology major, said she is now considering changing her medical career focus from pediatrics to geriatrics.
“Now I realize how much I enjoy working with this older generation,” Grindberg said.
I, myself, had a similar experience. My time as a caregiver and the connection I felt to the work of this industry, sent me on this path on I’m on—from caregiver, to nurse, to operations, to chief operating officer, to my current role on the vendor side here at OnShift. I am so fortunate to have been able to grow professionally and do so while contributing to a great cause. I still find numerous opportunities to share in my experiences and be a true resource here at OnShift.
This got me thinking about the current senior care workforce shortage and how providers can expose young people to this field. How can we get career-seeking young folks into our communities to see how fulfilling this line of work is? Here are a few ideas that came to mind...
There’s an opportunity to pass the love for this line of work down to our own children. LTC and senior living professionals that are passionate about this industry should consider having their children volunteer at their community to get both experience and exposure. Additionally, the administration could go out to schools and promote summer volunteer programs to students.
It’s the day-to-day interactions with residents that really sealed the deal for me – and seemed to change Grindberg’s mind. These collaborations and volunteer opportunities are definitely part of it, but there’s more to be done.
I think getting the heartwarming stories that are created daily at communities out there will work wonders…especially when it comes to branding and communicating our mission.
“As an industry, we’ve done a pathetically poor job of telling our story.” That’s what Dan Hutson, chief strategy officer with HumanGood, said on a recent panel that met to talk about the industry’s crippling recruiting and retention challenges at the Senior Housing News Summit.
Just think if Grindberg went out and told her friends about her experience and how she had planned to change her career as a result? That's a pretty powerful story, one that could even play a role in recruiting.
So, let’s put our marketing hats on. Fortunately, we don’t have too tough of a job on our hands, because a career in senior living practically sells itself for those that belong here – the ones that are compassionate, kind-hearted and committed to the aging population. We just have to spread the word of our work and be better storytellers in the process.
I’m curious to learn what your organization is doing to both expose young folks to this field and better market your community. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share what’s worked for you.