March 3 -7 is Careers in Aging Week and an appropriate time to talk about the importance of this topic. No longer are the shortages of direct care staff and others in long term care a subject of the future. The crisis is looming and it is serious.
The number of Americans 65 and older is projected to grow to 98 million by 2060, more than double the number we had in 2016. According to the Population Reference Bureau, between 2020 - 2030, the number of older adults in America will grow by 18 million as the youngest baby boomers hit 65.
Like me, the baby boomers that are marching forward are asking ourselves, "Who will take care of me?" While families have and will be forced to take on the caregiving tasks for their loved ones, it simply is not the answer or reality for many Americans. Boomers and GenXers are working, families are not geographically close enough to take on the role of primary caregivers, the numbers of widows and widowers are growing and many elderly are childless.
According to Government statisticians, home care is one of the nation's fastest-growing occupations, with an additional million workers needed by 2026! That is an increase of 50% from 2014.
Without pouring through any more statistics, growing careers in aging is no longer an option - it must become a priority that starts with our government leaders and is embraced by stakeholders across the spectrum. It is not a US-only challenge - it is a worldwide crisis that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
Work in long term care, especially direct care workforce has long been associated with low wages, often inconsistent work schedules, limited company benefits, and poor training. The economic boom has pulled workers from long term care into retail, restaurants, hospitality and other similar businesses that are paying higher wages. It's been a catch-22 but the fact that the shortages are colliding with an unprecedented demand is especially frightening.
Without pouring through any more statistics, growing careers in aging must be a priority that starts with our government leaders and is embraced by stakeholders across the spectrum. It is not a US-only challenge - it is a worldwide crisis that must be addressed sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, advocacy and lobbying take many years, of which we simply do not have time to wait.
What are the solutions? There are not any easy ones, but perhaps looking at what we can do locally to turn the tide is going to result in positive outcomes. We see our partner providers taking our Dementia Live® training to nursing schools, high school students and even out into communities who are embracing Age-Friendly and Dementia Friendly initiatives. Raising awareness of the growing elderly population and their needs is huge. Intergeneration programs among schools and churches and the elderly are setting an early example with children that respecting and taking care of our older adults is our duty.
Building awareness is a grass-roots effort and home-grown. It means take creative efforts to work with others that include public entities, community-based organizations, political leaders and the private sector. It means elevating the professional standards for those who choose careers in aging. Careers in Aging is a field that is extremely rewarding. We can do a better job of conveying this to our younger generation, and even an older generation who is looking to keep working and giving back. What better way is there to give back than to serve others.
I'd like to hear what you are doing to bring awareness and educate others in your community!
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them. You may reach out to Pam at email@example.com.