What 55+ Interviews Taught Me About Career Paths

What 55+ Interviews Taught Me About Career Paths

In the autumn of 2016, I worked alongside a few talented and inspiring young professionals to interview and film more than 55 multidisciplinary professionals in aging.

Our interviewees ranged from a 19-year-old nursing student to Dr. John Rowe, a world-renowned geriatrician in his 70s and former Chief Executive at Aetna Health Insurance. John is also the residing president-elect of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics, which hosts an "Olympics of Aging" conference every four years. Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending this conference in San Francisco (more to come about this in another post). 

Our project, entitled Share Your Why, taught me three things: 

  1. All but two of the interviewees found their way to careers in aging by happenstance. Most didn't seek coursework or employment related to aging, but found their way there through personal caregiving experiences, due to the effects of recession, or through some random series of events. It's estimated that senior housing alone needs approximately 1.2 million new staff by 2025. Happenstance is not a sustainable strategy to build a workforce for our aging population.

  2. Although the interviewees found a career in aging by happenstance, most can't imagine doing anything better. They feel fulfilled and fortunate to spend their working hours making an impact. Again and again, we heard the resounding sentiment that these professionals see tremendous room for growth, and if there's any sense of regret, it's not finding their way to aging earlier. 

  3. The "why" behind the passion for this work ranged from family to opportunity, but an overarching value emerged as a theme throughout our many interviews. Almost every professional echoed some sentiment along these lines: I value the life experience, stories, and wisdom of older generations.

It seems strange to me that what these interviewees value in a career in aging (the population we serve) is what our society often most ignores. It's almost as though we've found a treasure chest that those on the outside can't see or believe exists. Those who shared their why with us are a grateful group for the opportunity to stumble upon a fulfilling career with growth potential and, most importantly, the ability to work alongside such a wonderful and, unfortunately, often societally marginalized cohort: the Greatest Generation.

This video is one of the first in a series of multimedia projects and stories to come from 17+ hours of interview film. Thank you to LeadingAge and the Gerontological Society of America's leadership and members for sharing your why with us last November! 

The Olympics of Aging (#IAGG2017 Supply & Demand Angle)

The Olympics of Aging (#IAGG2017 Supply & Demand Angle)