I have discussions often with people about senior housing options. Sometimes the discussion is with family, and sometimes the discussion is with an elder adult. Even if the elder adult is in his or her late 80’s or older, the biggest downside comment about senior housing I hear is, “I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people.”
In a recent conversation, sure enough, I heard it again. “I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people – drooling, useless, put away with other old and useless people.” I reached for the person’s hand, and I said, “That would be a horrible existence! I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people either!”
This opened our conversation to talk about how our society has changed over the past 50 years. Families no longer live in close proximity to one another. The adult children of the elder generation are usually in situations where both partners work, and they are also dealing with childcare or college for their children.
Psychologists refer to the cycle of life as an arc.
You are born, you grow, you live, and then at a certain age…40 or 50 perhaps, you have an ‘over the hill party’ and you begin to decline and die around age 70 or so. At least that is what societal norms would have us believe.
However, people are now living into their 80’s, 90’s, and into the next century. The leading thought today is that as human beings we continue to evolve and grow into Elderhood and beyond. It is not an arc, but a circle. We have more time and opportunity to build communities as we all evolve as human beings.
New Intergenerational Families in Relationship with one another
Today, we have 5 generations working and living together in long-term care, with our greatest generation (average age 84 -87 years old). A person who decides to move into a senior housing community will today find themselves surrounded by a new intergenerational family.
This gives us opportunities to harvest and unleash the power and creativity of an intergenerational team that may inspire and transform eldercare as a vibrant, interesting, and forward-thinking community of people.
The Millennials and Zillennials (Generation Z), along with the Boomers and Generation X have the honor to connect, build relationships and learn together to support one another on this shared life journey to learn about and experience 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 Traditionalist (born between 1900 – 1945 – The elders we serve! ages 70- 100+)
- The Boomers ( ages 54-73 in 2018)
- Generation X (ages 38-53 in 2018)
- The Millennials (ages 24-37 in 2018)
- The Zillennials (Generation Z) (ages 6 – 23 in 2018)
It is time for us to reexamine and empower these generations, and embrace new leadership styles and cultures as thought leaders in the industry.
Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z – ranging from a generation born in the fallout of the Great Depression to a generation who has never known life without iPhones and social media, there are few commonalities between these five generations.
While each one is increasingly unique, there is one characteristic that each of these five generations shares – they are all co-participants in today’s workforce.
Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to inspire our teams to work together to create an intergenerational family within a culture of caring in our Senior Housing Communities.
Elders do NOT need to feel like they are “living with a ‘bunch of old people’ – but are part of a vibrant, productive, happy family of all ages!
For the first time in history, we have five generations side-by-side in the modern workplace.
Longer lifespans, delayed retirement and an eagerness to begin working earlier are just a few of the reasons we are seeing a greater span of generations working together than ever before. Each generation is prominent and unique – and have power working together as a family.
- Generation Z: They may be young, but they are entering the workforce earlier than most. Gen Z is coming into our communities with a strong entrepreneurial drive. They will be your early adopters and mentors and teachers when you install a new EMAR or Electronic Record system or implement technology for your Elders to stay connected to families.
- Millennials aren’t just working for the money, but also for a bigger, common purpose, so establishing a core purpose and living the mission as a role model is a sure way to attract Millennials. Show them that their coworkers are intelligent and talented people to work with. Give them more value and opportunities to learn at work, and acknowledge them when they do well and give them feedback when they need to improve.
- Gen X: To appeal to this generation, it’s best if a leader is direct with them regarding feedback on their performance, allow flexibility for work-life balance and reward hard work. They desire intelligent authority figures to respect and learn from. Generation X is driven by results and often succeed when given a project deadline with little structure and the flexibility to work when they think is best.
- Boomers: A teaching opportunity can reinforce the boomer’s importance in the workplace, teach the younger generations, bridge the gap between the two, and promote collaboration – something boomers often value greatly.
- Traditionalist: One of their most prominent and defining characteristics is a strong work ethic; since they grew up in the aftermath of the Great Depression, they often see working as a privilege. The Elders are the ‘HEART’ of your Community Family, and they can have a purpose by being included in the interviewing of a new team member, or teaching a life skills class to your care team, or working with a team on a community outreach project. Perhaps they would like to form a ‘Wisdom Circle’ where they can teach and guide some of the care team members. They have a prominent place in the family.
Multiple generations living and working together create a sense of safety, love, and belonging, and builds self-esteem. It gives everyone opportunities to learn from one another and hear different perspectives on the same ideas.
Celebrate the unique strengths of each generation and empower them to learn from each other to create a more collaborative, engaged environment. When care teams, families, and residents care for each other; have more opportunities to learn; are engaged and making a difference – overall happiness increases – now, that is a family to be proud of!
About the author: Jean Garboden, Director of Education and Innovation, 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 in Eugene, Oregon. 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