You Only Live Once – Right Millennials?

The first time I saw ‘yolo’  was when I was texting with a colleague as we were discussing a decision.  When I questioned the possible costs, he texted back ‘yolo’.      I learned later that he had learned that acronym from his teenaged son.  YOLO = You only live once!   Maybe we do have something to learn from Millennials!

Millennials and Zillennials (Generation Z) are the next generation of workers in eldercare!  They will reshape the workplace, bringing with them energy and a desire to make a difference, with YOLO as their mantra!  We have an opportunity now to connect with these next generations to work alongside us as innovators and shapers of the future!

The reality is that 78% of new hires in senior care in the United States are Millennials as reported by McKnight’s Long-term care survey in 2016.

It is time for us, as Senior Housing Leaders, to reexamine and understand these generations, and time for us to embrace new leadership styles and cultures as thought leaders in the industry.

Millennials were raised to be confident individuals.  That’s good,  right?  Yet this confidence can be off-putting to their more seasoned co-workers. If you have a care team that is predominantly millennials, it works well to have a more seasoned mentor working alongside them. This mentor should be someone who guides, working parallel to them, allowing them to maintain their confidence and independence while receiving the reassurance that they crave.

Millennials’ have admirable attributes, including  that they are more accepting of diversity than were past generations, have capabilities with advanced communication and information technologies, have the ability to see problems and opportunities from fresh perspectives, and are more comfortable working in teams than were past generations.

Today, we have 4 generations working together in long-term care, serving our greatest generation (average age 85 years old). This gives us opportunities to harvest and unleash the power and creativity of a multi-generational team that may inspire and transform eldercare into a vibrant, interesting, and forward-thinking community of people.

The Millennials and Zillennials, along with the Boomers and Generation X have the honor to work and learn together to support elders on their life journey at this wonderful developmental stage of life called elderhood.

A bonus for all of us is a chance to learn from the wisdom and experience of elders – the 5th generation in our workplace!

  • The Greatest Generation  (born between 1900 – 1945 – The elders we serve! ages 72 – 100+)
  • The Boomers ( ages 53 -71 in 2017)
  • Generation X (ages 37-52 in 2017)
  • The Millennials (ages 23-36 in 2017)
  • The Zillennials (ages 5 – 22 in 2017)

As I have been teaching, listening, and learning with the millennials, and their younger counterpart, the Zillennials, I  recognize that they have some particular characteristics that will reshape the workplace, and make us better leaders.

  1. Ambition and desire to keep learning and move quickly upwards
  2. Collaborators – love to work in teams toward a common goal
  3. Embracing innovation and social and ethnic diversity
  4. Willingness to champion new ideas and take creative risks – YOLO!
  5.  Flexible approach to work
  6. Very regular feedback and encouragement.
  7. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognized

The companies that have already been the most successful in attracting talented Millennials are naturally innovative employers who are never restrained by ‘how things used to be done’. These companies are not specifically targeting Millennials, but their culture, leadership style, and approach to recruitment and retention naturally appeal to the Millennial generation. And because of that, they are able to take their pick of the best younger talent around.

It is not too late for those of us in senior housing to gain the loyalty of Millennials  who seek employers with similar values according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016. Thus, those organizations that are guided by strong core values may be less likely to lose their Millennial employees.

We have an opportunity now to connect with these next generations to work alongside us as innovators and shapers of the future!


Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

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