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The COVID-19 pandemic not only propelled assisted living and skilled nursing into the global spotlight; it also highlighted continuing workforce challenges in the industry.

This week, the industry celebrates its frontline workers during Careers in Aging Week by raising awareness of the wide-ranging career opportunities in the field of aging. The week is a joint effort of the Gerontological Society of America, American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, Argentum and LeadingAge.

“We saw through the pandemic that many workers from other fields were more open to exploring careers in senior living, not only because opportunities were becoming limited in other fields, but also because many began to look for a purpose-driven career, one that could make a difference,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Challenges include raising awareness about the variety of careers available and assuring potential employees that senior living is a safe and rewarding environment.”

The United States will need between 5.7 million and 6.5 million nurses, nurse aides, personal care and home health workers to care for the 27 million Americans who will require long-term care by 2050, according to AHCA / NCAL.

“AHCA / NCAL is proud to participate in Careers in Aging Week and encourage our members to showcase the incredible opportunities available in long-term care,” NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Workforce recruitment and retention is one of our profession’s biggest challenges, and it’s a priority for us to continue to spread awareness and provide resources to help attract and retain qualified, dedicated caregivers.”

Strengthening and supporting the long-term care workforce is one of the four strategies laid out in the Care For Our Seniors Act previously announced by AHCA and LeadingAge. AHCA / NCAL noted that workforce shortages worsened during the pandemic as illness or lack of childcare options forced many staff members to miss work or leave the field. The proposal outlines financial and regulatory solutions to bolster the long-term care workforce, especially in nursing homes.

The Gerontological Society of America said that people are living longer and populations are aging worldwide, increasing the demand for professionals with expertise in aging. The organization offers a variety of resources on its website, including tip sheets, online resources, videos and a toolkit, to celebrate the week.

The Erickson School of Aging Studies is offering a series of events featuring alumni and community partners discussing their work in the field of aging.