Attracting (and maintaining) a Senior Care Workforce

by Joe Gallagher

Recently, I’ve noticed a few articles popping up across various outlets discussing the senior care workforce crisis the nation is facing. The articles also touch on the lack of affordable options for seniors themselves to entertain the idea of moving into a senior community. All of them bring up very valid points from—the inevitable impacts of the shortage in care providers to ways in which to retain current workers. The problem is that every article is basically repeating and rewording the same three ideas:

  1. Enhance the workforce culture and comfort
  2. Recognize and reward valuable internal contributions
  3. Creative ideas to avoid over-working existing employees

Let’s look at these three common ‘solutions’ and I’ll propose one action which could address all of them: develop Intergenerational Housing.

By now, I am sure I am starting to sound like a broken record—and that’s a good thing! I say this because there is validity within the argument; proven data and examples of European nations implementing Intergenerational practices.

Enhancing Workplace Culture and Comfort

Let’s look at the first commonly identified objective: enhancing workplace culture and comfort. There are many ways in which this can be achieved:

  • Planning group outings to strengthen employee relationships;
  • Renovating spaces to enhance the work environment;
  • Dedicating break-out spaces for employees to take a quick breather during a shift or to eat lunch/dinner;
  • Offering internal recognition for valuable contributions (it’s proven that companies with a high culture of internal recognition have lower turnover rates);
  • Improving overall transparency and flexibility within the workplace.

Financial Rewards

The second, highly repeated objective, is financial rewards. While previously mentioned as an opportunity within enhancing the workplace culture, people appreciate being rewarded for their hard work. It is always assumed that a ‘reward’ is something more tangible than a piece of paper that says ‘Congrats’. But, not all senior facilities have the additional funds to reward their employees financially.  Keep this in mind, as it will be key to the overall point I am aiming to make.

Living Arrangements and Technological Advancements

The last objective, which I commonly find in various posts, is creative ideas on how to utilize smaller living arrangements coupled with technological advancements so that more residents can be taken care of without overworking existing staff. These ideas often worry me as I see the level of care decreasing when the level of physically monitoring residents in need decreases. However, I realize this is a valid issue to combat as across the country we’re seeing high turnover from over-working these staff members.

So, onto the possible solution.

How Intergenerational Housing Can Help the Senior Care Workforce

The three most costly expenses in a person’s life are: housing, food, and childcare. A senior living community provides: housing, food, and potentially could provide childcare.

If we begin creating intergenerational living opportunities within our existing facilities, employers could offer housing and/or food plans to their current/prospective employees to go along with their wage. Employers could establish a daycare opportunity, fully or partially ran by the seniors, to which their current/prospective employees could bring their children during the day while they are at work.

Having your children close to you and seeing the excitement of the seniors around the children can undoubtedly enhance the workplace culture and provide comfort. Both the employees and the residents benefit.

Employees will reap the financial reward of having reduced rent for living and working at the facility. They can further benefit from on-site childcare and free or reduced cost meals both of which wouldn’t cause an undue burden on the facility. In fact, the aforementioned benefits could be offered as incentives to work additional hours.

Worried about over-working employees? The daily stressors of childcare, reliable transportation, food are alleviated when the employee lives on site. Simple things like saving time on commuting and the ability to easily go home for lunch can make a significant difference in ensuring work/life balance.

The ideas are endless, and these are merely just the tip of the iceberg. Finances in some form or another are one of the leading reasons for people leaving the senior care workforce.

I challenge existing communities to look at the resources they have available, and to think outside the box of what ‘finances’ means. What are the necessities your employees spend the bulk of their wages on? What could your community do to relieve or at least alleviate these?

Every new article that comes out seems to only repeat or outline the same problems over and over. My goal is to suggest actions through which we can hope to address these problems, in new and innovative ways.

What do you think?

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For more information on Intergenerational Housing check out:

WALA Conference Summary

H.O.M.E Chicago: An Example of Intergenerational Housing

Intergenerational Housing



Originally from just outside of Philadelphia, PA, Joe graduated from Temple University (Philadelphia) with a master’s degree in architecture. He and his wife relocated to the Madison area in August of 2016, and in June of 2017 he joined JLA Architects as a project assistant. He is currently two exams away from licensure. Senior Living design is something that he has always been passionate about. His goal is to enhance collaboration between designers and medical professionals within the field of aging and memory loss during this extremely imperative time, as senior numbers continue to grow. Joe comments, “Thinking outside of the box is extremely important right now, as senior numbers continue to increase, and workforce numbers remain static and/or decrease.”