POV: Think senior living for career start

The author is the founder and CEO of Aegis Living, with 28 senior living communities in Washington, California and Nevada, and the author of “My Mother, My Son: A true story of love, determination, and memories...lost.”

Today, the senior living industry is not on most young people’s radar as a potential career track or even as a starter or summertime job—but it should be. Senior housing is a $40 billion industry that is growing rapidly in need, scale and employment opportunities, and it will continue to do so over the next several decades as the U.S. population ages.

These are not the stereotypical “old folks homes” of yesteryear. Skilled nursing facilities still abound, of course, but the greatest growth — and the most dynamic revolution — is taking place in retirement and assisted living communities. These are thriving, active, lively places of business that are also fun, rewarding places to work. To be successful, these communities require a broad range of skills in full- and part-time positions, and not just nursing and care coordinators.

Here are three entry-level opportunities to consider:

  1. Work in the kitchen with meal prep or on-site dining rooms and cafés in a wait staff position for the three meals and additional snacks made available to residents each day. This can involve helping to prepare meals and serving. What a great way to get your foot in the door for the teen who might be interested in a culinary career!

  2. Help with senior activities. If a young person has high energy and some experience in crafts or the performing arts, what could be more satisfying than helping seniors have some fun and tap into their artistic side? Senior living communities have a daily, weekly and monthly activities calendar. The program includes various types of activities that volunteers or staff may assist with such as: painting, exercise, games, singing, dancing, trivia and outings to museums, parks and galleries.

  3. Work as a nighttime concierge who answers phones and resident inquiries. While a nighttime position requires less experience than its daytime counterpart, it still provides an opportunity to visit with residents, greet guests and get involved with customer service. It might lack glamour, but this is a responsible position and can provide solid work experience for a young person’s resume.

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