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Sharing new thoughts on aging.

Welcome to my blog. As President and CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife, I invite you to join me in a conversation that explores the many ways we think about the challenges and opportunities around aging. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and comments, and through our exchange of ideas together, we will continue on the journey to redefine the experience of aging.

Geriatrics Caregivers Wanted: How to Inspire the Young to Care for the Old

Let’s face it – it’s probably safe to assume that few young adults poised to enter the workforce rank senior care services high on their list of career aspirations. And yet the need and opportunity has never been greater.

By now it’s old news that adults 65 and older represent the fastest growing segment of our population. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, this group is expected to grow from its current 14.5% of the US population to 22% by 2040. What’s not old news, and in fact something we need to pay attention to, is the corresponding growth in the need for professionals skilled in meeting seniors’ unique needs:

  • In 2010, vacancy rates for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in skilled nursing facilities across the U.S. were already 18.6 percent and 16.6 percent, respectively.
  • By 2018, more than one million additional direct-care workers will be needed.
  • By 2020, the nursing workforce is expected to drop 20 percent below projected requirements.
  • By 2022 there will be 1.9 million home health care jobs, making it the fastest growing industry in the coming years.
  • By 2050, we will need approximately 110,000 social workers in long-term care; about double the 55,000 social workers currently needed today.

You get the picture – for those of us committed to providing quality care to older adults, there is reason to be concerned. Will we be ready?

I’m optimistic that the answer is yes! I believe young adults looking for meaningful careers can and will rise to the occasion. And here’s why I’m so confident.

A local college recently invited me to talk to students enrolled in their “Life Care” curriculum. My charge from the professor? Get the class excited about careers in geriatrics. The professor was aware of the great opportunities that exist, but was concerned that a class on this topic could be painfully boring and not capture the students’ imagination.  I agreed with her perspective.

Well, our concerns were quickly dispelled. Unlike many in my generation who pursued careers promising advancement and personal gain, these students were eager to make a real difference in the world. They want careers they can feel good about and an opportunity to positively impact their communities and the people who live in them.

What a great opportunity to present the Hebrew SeniorLife philosophy to this unexpectedly receptive and enthusiastic group of young people! I explained that at HSL, we believe that we have the “power to redefine aging.” Our mission is to provide the best care possible to the seniors we serve, inspiring them to reach their full potential physically, socially, spiritually and intellectually; that we encourage them to think, dream and do throughout their lives.

I went on to describe how this philosophy inspires those who provide the care. Our caregivers find their work gratifying and say over and over that it’s the seniors that make their work so fulfilling.

I very much believe my message struck a chord; their eyes were opened by the proposition that a career in senior care could deliver the rewarding experience and impact they want, and have excellent growth and stability opportunities in a rapidly expanding industry.

By all reports, the students were buzzing the next day – still full of questions and eager to learn more. I believe I had convinced many that a career devoted to serving older adults could actually be “cool”, and that HSL’s unique perspective on inspiring seniors to reach their full potential throughout their lives played a significant role in getting them so charged. I’m proud to work with dedicated professionals who serve as a model and inspiration for a younger generation.

If my recent foray into academe is any indication, we should feel confident that the next generation wants to meet the health and service needs we face with the aging of America. What’s needed now is a national commitment to help train this next generation of geriatric care professionals. We’re committed and ready. Are you? 


About Hebrew SeniorLife
Founded in Boston in 1903, Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife is a nonprofit, non-sectarian organization that today provides communities and health care for seniors, research into aging, and education for geriatric care providers. With nearly 2,600 employees aligned around a common mission, goals and cultural beliefs, we are one of the largest employers in Massachusetts. We care for 3,000 seniors a day at our nine Boston-area campuses and communities. We reach countless more seniors, families, caregivers and senior care professionals around the U.S. and the world through our research and teaching mission.
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Louis J. Woolf's picture

About the Blogger

President and CEO, Hebrew SeniorLife

Lou Woolf joined Hebrew SeniorLife in 2009 as President and was elevated to President and CEO in February 2013. Lou is committed to redefining the experience of aging for the thousands of seniors served by HSL’s integrated system of health care, senior living communities, research and teaching, and dedicated to supporting HSL staff’s extraordinary commitment to do exactly that every day. Prior to joining HSL, Lou served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at North Shore Medical Center, the largest community hospital system in Partners Healthcare System. He also spent 10...

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