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People working in senior living and aging services often have this backstory: They hadn’t known about the opportunities or the variety the field offers. They didn’t know they could even get a job right out of high school, or apply their experience from another field, or enjoy a lifelong career. And they hadn’t realized how rewarding it could be.

Group photo from Careers-in-Aging-Week-2019
Participants at the Public Policy Institute & Fly-In last March participated in the 2019 Careers in Aging Week campaign.

Careers in Aging Week, April 5-11, 2020, (#careersinaging) is one attempt to change that. The partnership effort with the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is an annual awareness campaign to not only attract workers, but to change narratives around aging and ageism, writes Judie Lieu, GSA’s vice president of publishing and professional resources, in an email interview.

The program has grown in breadth of support; partners include American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), Argentum and Senior Living Works, and LeadingAge.

Participating is a way to showcase positive stories about your community and the people who work there—as well as to attract values-motivated job candidates.

The program was started in the early 1990s by one of GSA’s membership sections, the Academy of Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), which is focused on supporting the development of experts working in the field of higher education. It began with colleges and universities hosting events to raise visibility about careers in academics and research.

The program has grown to encompass not only higher education but high schools—highlighting careers and speaking to prospective workers of all kinds and all ages. “Careers in Aging Week is for businesses, clinics, coalitions, organizations, universities, colleges, and other parties across the world,” Lieu writes.

“Careers in Aging Week is about trying out new ideas and innovative approaches to improve how our society supports older people and responds to aging. Ultimately, it’s about ensuring that adults can be full members of society as they age.”

GSA represents researchers, clinicians, and educators in the aging field—and, like its partners, is committed to nurturing the next generation, Lieu writes. But she also points out that this is not simply a problem for the aging services field, but for the nation; referencing the landmark 2008 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Retooling for an Aging America, which sounded an alarm of lack of preparation for the growing population of older adults.

“Yes, the U.S. population is aging as a result of increases in longevity and decreases in birthrates,” Lieu writes. “As Americans enjoy the blessings of living longer lives, society will need to address some of the new challenges this presents.”

“Fortunately, we have a long tradition of using our ingenuity to find meaningful solutions to challenges like these.  That’s what we do in America: We solve problems.”

Lieu has seen a rise in awareness around aging in recent years.

“In many ways, we’re gaining momentum, with more and more companies developing products and services to help support individuals, caregivers, and families to support aging loved ones. We’re continuing to explore mechanisms for getting more individuals to take on roles in this arena as well.”

In past Careers in Aging Weeks, supporters have held online chats, made presentations to schools, and held job fairs. While plans for 2020 are just getting started, the week could bring back some activities from last year.

One of these was “Share Your Selfie” where people with careers in aging could show the wide range of work possibilities through taking a selfie at work. The most popular was the video series, “Real Faces of Careers in Aging,” with compelling vignettes on why people chose careers in aging.

But what makes the week a success is participation. The partnership shares lots of ready-to-use toolkits and materials as well as ideas on how to use them. Anyone in senior living and aging services, as well as family and friends, can get involved—it can be as simple as an Instagram post or as memorable as a celebration lunch.

“Social media has made it easier to tell the world why we choose to work with older adults,” Lieu writes. “We hope to dramatically raise awareness of the diverse career opportunities in this field and to advance the national conversation around these meaningful careers.”

Planning your participation

The partnership is in planning stages, with new materials slated to be posted in February on the Careers in Aging website at careersinaging.com. This will include the Careers in Aging Buzzkit, with sample communication strategies for events, online promotion, and print and online promotional materials.

The social media hashtag is #careersinaging—and you don’t have to wait until that week to use it; it’s good all year round.

But the most effective way to get involved, Lieu says, is to find a way to share your story. Whether that’s through an online video, a presentation to a school, or a talk to your community, the stories make the difference.

If you already have an event planned in the first week of April, you can add a Careers in Aging Week spin to connect with the positivity.

Here are some additional ideas, gleaned from past years and brainstorming, for how to make the most out of Careers in Aging Week. It’s a good idea to check in with your team or operators before launching any promotional efforts, to avoid any conflicts in time or branding.

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