July 9, 2018 – As I peruse the exhibit halls and sessions week after week at senior living conferences, I always wonder one thing: why don’t more people my age work in this industry? I have been asked this question by executives in similar forms. “How do we attract young people to this industry?” or “How do we find young talent to work for us?” or sometimes even, “How did you get involved in this industry?”
Three years ago, when I graduated from the University of Georgia where I coached football as an undergrad assistant coach, senior living was nowhere on my radar. In fact, I honestly had no idea what senior living was outside of the couple of times I visited a nursing home to sing Christmas carols when I was a kid. Outside of coaching football, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. The only sales jobs that called me were in the medical field. The only other offers I had were teaching positions. Neither sounded too interesting at the time, but I needed something to start paying back those painful student loans.
Luckily, or by the grace of God depending on where you fall religiously, a buddy of mine named Ty Frix had just started a company and needed a sales guy. We basically sold a software that tracked steps, sleep and workout exertion through Fitbits. We sold this software to like Alabama and LSU football coaches, UGA basketball coaches and anyone else who wanted to monitor their athletes.
Along the way, I met a guy named Jon Glass. Jon was working with Thrive Senior Living at the time.Thrive is known for being innovative. After I told him what we were doing with the Fitbits, he said that he’d like to look at that for the residents at Thrive! In my mind, I pictured the nursing homes from my time singing Christmas carols and thought, “How in the world would Fitbits would work in that environment?” The two didn’t seem to exactly match, but when you are working for a startup with not many customers, you talk to whoever will listen.
Jon invited me to a grand opening event for a community in Virginia. I was the only one who dressed up in a tuxedo at my first ever senior living event. When I first walked into the building, I stood in line for what I thought was check in. It turned out to be how I was introduced to It’s Never 2 Late. The meetings with Thrive led to me spending lots of time at several other communities like Parc at Duluth, Garden Plaza of Lawrenceville and, of course, Thrive.
Though I was essentially making zero dollars with the start up, I absolutely loved my job when we pivoted our target market to senior living. I’ve since transitioned into a new job with It’s Never 2 Late and have had the opportunity to continue to do the same type of work.
With it now being two years since Jon Glass first told me about Thrive Senior Living and introduced me to this world, I think I’ve found where I fit. Now, I share with anyone my age who will listen about my experiences in senior living. The experiences I share almost always boil down to three things. Here are the reasons why every 25-year old should work in Senior Living:
The People We Serve
This is number one for a reason. It is my favorite part of the job. Interacting with the residents who live in the communities is a treat for a person in their twenties. I learned these communities are filled with people who were teachers, doctors, athletes, lawyers, pilots and other professions for 40+ years. Most of them want to tell you all about it. For me, the wisdom shared from these people has been invaluable. These conversations usually had three things in common. Their most meaningful relationships are typically talked about first. The relationships were always followed by stories about the experiences with those people. Lastly, each person could connect and become joyful when you talk about something meaningful to them. These people have shown me what is valuable towards the end of your life and they have changed my perception on aging.
The People Who Serve
If there is ever an industry filled with people looking to help you, this is the one. In my short time, executives like Tod Petty, Bill Pierce, Rebecca Sturtz, Josh Crisp, Jack York and so many others, have taken time out of their day so many times to share their wisdom with those who didn’t have much to offer in return. Field staff like Beth Baxter, Lori Bochat and Bill Andrew have such a passion for doing whatever it takes to improve an older person’s quality of life. Their energy and spirit are contagious. For a young guy fresh out of college with minimal knowledge of the industry, I was able to see and meet the people like those mentioned. It has given me a motivation to learn how I can help, how I can serve the elderly and how I can help lead a change in the perception of senior living to people my age.
My perception of senior living could not have been more wrong. Nursing homes from 15 years ago when I sang those Christmas Carols are incomparable to senior housing today. Unfortunately, the reality is that most people in their twenties are not aware of the change that has taken place in senior living and still view senior living as those nursing homes from 15 years ago. After visiting hundreds of communities over the last two years, I’ve realized that senior living communities are simply a new home for a person who may need assistance with certain daily routines. You are no longer going into an unpleasing environment. You are now merely just going to someone’s home.
I am thankful that senior living found me, so I want to help spread the word on the opportunities for other young folks to make a difference in this industry. It took a couple of people who were willing to grab lunch and educate me on the needs in the industry. Young people want to be given goals that show how they can make a difference, and I believe senior living is the perfect place for this.
I want to leave every person who has read this article with two challenges:
• Invite a college graduate who is in their twenties to lunch. Learn about them, share fun stories and talk about the needs in senior living. For extra credit, try to do this once a month!
• Share this article and tag three colleagues that you wish you would have met when you were in your twenties. These are the people who we want to learn from!
If any of those people you eat lunch with want to talk with a peer, feel free to connect them with me!