Careers Working with the Elderly
Looking for a career in a fast-growing field that requires a broad range of skills and allows you to make a difference in the lives of others? Learn how a job helping the elderly can be a challenging, rewarding, and wise career choice.
Meet the Expert
Rebecca Newman, MSW, LCSW, is a Psychiatric Social Worker at Thomas Jefferson University Physicians Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, where she provides individual psychotherapy in Philadelphia, PA. She holds a BA from Oberlin College and an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania, where she received the John Hope Franklin Award for Combating American Racism. She specializes in working with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, grief and loss, LGBTQIA+ topics, trauma, and adjustment to life changes.
Men and women 65 and older make up 13% of the U.S. population, a number expected to more than double by 2050. While this means more senior citizens, it also means more career opportunities for those who choose to work with them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects faster-than-average growth for a number of senior-focused careers between 2018 and 2028, including Home Health Aides (37%), occupational therapy assistants (33%), and physician assistants (31%).
Job growth aside, working with the elderly can be a rewarding career path full of opportunities. Continue reading to learn about the variety of industries, educational paths, and skillsets that can result in a fulfilling career helping the elderly.
Why a Career Helping the Elderly is a Smart Move
A career working with the elderly can be more than just personally rewarding. Financially rewarding jobs within aging exist among a variety of different industries from healthcare and education to administration and disease research. Depending on your education level and personal interests, there will be a number of options working with the elderly for you to choose from. Here are 4 major reasons a career in aging is a smart move:
4 Traits for Success Working with the Elderly
Working with the elderly often requires specific skills and personality traits. Before diving into a career in aging, make sure you not only have the right skillset, but also the disposition to be successful. If you have the following traits, a career working with the elderly may be a good fit for you:
Working with the elderly requires a certain level of patience especially because older people can have a slower pace when they move, when they speak, and in some cases, a slower pace when processing things. Whether in healthcare, education, social work, or any other industry with the elderly, an ability to work at a slower pace and repeat yourself without annoyance is a must.
Empathy is an important trait to have when working closely with any population, but may be especially important with the elderly. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of those who may be in pain, lonely, or depressed is paramount to building strong relationships with the people you work with.
The baby boomer generation’s parents instilled a great deal of importance in treating their elder with respect. With problems like hearing loss and cognitive skills such as memory loss common in older people, the elderly can often feel dismissed or belittled. Making a point of listening to them and asking questions rather than giving orders will generally resonate better.
People work helping the elderly are often meeting their patients or clients during a challenging transitional period in their lives that sometimes leads to a pessimistic outlook on their futures. Having a positive disposition can be key when working in aging and helping the seniors you work with stay optimistic can improve their mental and physical health.
Exploring Careers Working with the Elderly
To help provide assistance, treatment, and care for people and the health conditions and concerns they’re likely to face as they age, professionals from a diverse number of industries choose to specialize and work in aging. Nurses, social workers, educators, advocates and more may choose to focus their work on the 65 and older population. These careers can be both extremely rewarding and equally challenging and for those who wish to make a difference in the lives of others, working with the elderly can be a great fit. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular career choices for people who want to make an impact in the lives of the elderly.
Interview: A Career in Aging
Rebecca Newman, MSW, LCSW, tells STEPS how she came to work with elderly men and women, and how each of her patients helps her as much as (and sometimes even more than) she helps them.