Scott Monson headshot
Scott Monson
Scott Monson
Scott Monson

Although senior living has not come out unscathed due to nationwide staffing shortages in nearly every industry, operators still are seeing good news: The career opportunities that are available in the senior living industry continue to grow within hundreds of communities, and the field is drawing tremendous interest from people that will enable owners, operators and other leaders to flourish in the long run.

Senior living is growing at a remarkable pace. Across the United States alone, more than 900,000 older adults are residing in assisted living, with more than half over the age of 85. As owners, operators and other leaders know well, these home-like communities offer residents an opportunity to continue living independent lifestyles while maintaining access to on-site caregivers and other staff members who provide assistance with activities of daily living when needed, and without them, it simply wouldn’t be possible.

By the year 2025, that number is expected to rise, according to data compiled by the Senior Living Works initiative led by Argentum, suggesting that millions of people will need to be recruited to work in the senior living industry to keep up with the rapidly aging population.

“We have staff members of all ages, from high school students to older staff,” said Jesse Buntjer, the vice president of operations at a senior living community in Utah.

The success attracting and retaining workers stems from the opportunities, resources, benefits and impact that are part of the senior living culture. Buntjer himself is seeing additional interest from many who are interested in looking at career changes post-pandemic and now are looking into assisted living as a new career path after taking a step back to see what they really want to do.

Many now are considering this industry as a fulfilling life-long job opportunity because several communities also help their staff members advance their careers within assisted living.

“We can help you with training if you want to become a nurse or a certified nursing assistant. It’s not an industry where people just show up and get a paycheck; it’s where you can truly make a difference every day,” Buntjer explained. “There are jobs as caregivers, servers, chefs, maintenance, front desk, housekeeping and more. There are so many people out there who don’t even have to work but do because they love caring for seniors.”

People who once held jobs as cooks in restaurants working long, late hours have turned to assisted living and are now chefs who nourish residents and build relationships.

“There are very few companies out there where you go home after work and think, ‘Today, I matter and made a difference in somebody’s life,’” Buntjer said.

Many people also are looking at careers in senior living because the industry is simply booming.

In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the baby boomer population, born between 1946 and 1964, began turning 65 in 2011, and by the year 2030, all boomers will be 65 or older.

This rapidly aging senior population is expected to represent more than 20% of the United States, or about 60 million people, creating an unprecedented demand for senior living services in the coming decades.

Even beyond that sweeping number, the amount of those seniors who will require and seek long-term care also is notable. According to projections by the Urban Institute, between 2015 and 2055, the number of older Americans with severe long-term services and support needs also will increase by a whopping 140%.

“It’s such an emotional industry. You’re dealing with people in very vulnerable points of their lives and giving care to them,” Buntjer said. “There’s a huge opportunity for a career path and to fill a need for friendship and compassion.”

As industry interest continues to grow and see success attracting and retaining workers, the future of assisted living certainly will continue to pave a path that ensures better outcomes for both staff and seniors alike.

Scott Monson is past president of the Utah Assisted Living Association.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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