It is an amazing number to think about! It is estimated that, by 2018, 29% of the direct health care workers in the United States will be over 55.
Older adults who are aging successfully and who may have already retired from one career are finding themselves reentering the workforce as paid caregivers! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of working seniors is on the rise. In fact, it has more than doubled since 1990.
Many home care agencies are turning to older adults to fill the gap resulting from high turnover and increased demand for in-home care. Seniors are looking to supplement their waning retirement incomes. It becomes a win-win situation for all involved, especially the seniors needing care.
Caregivers Like Those for Whom They Care
Many older adults who need help with routine tasks such as dressing and bathing, including those who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or recovering from fractures, find themselves on the receiving end of senior care from someone who looks much like them. A few wrinkles, gray hair or even balding, four-eyed and born in the same generation!
Caregivers, including home health aides, nurses and hospice personnel, are no longer just young people but often those in their 70’s.
Many older paid caregivers are returning to the work force after caring for their own loved ones. Now they find themselves inspired to continue to care for other people who need them. Many feel that this new calling is more fulfilling and rewarding than their lifelong careers.
These older care providers can interact on a level that younger people simply can’t. They can relate to life stories and experiences, share common interests, enjoy the same music and play the same games. There is a kinship in this the “greatest generation.”
Family caregivers often need help as they themselves are aging and facing chronic diseases which make it difficult to perform all the necessary senior care duties for their loved one. They may also need respite from the duties in order to preserve their physical and emotional strength. For many family caregivers, especially those dealing with dementia, caregiving can be a role that is measured in many years not months resulting in burnout.
Caregivers Able to Identify with Those Under Care
Seniors and caregiving seems to be a good match when one considers that seniors have years of wisdom gathered over a lifetime of experiences. They also have compassion resulting from personal knowledge and can relate to aging issues and functional decline requiring assistance. They feel the aches and pains of aging and can share this with the person for whom they care. Seniors who provide care for their peers are not there to baby them and are not condescending, as can happen with younger helpers who mean well but don’t understand aging fully — because they haven’t yet experienced it.
Many agencies providing in-home senior care report that their workforce is comprised by about 30% seniors and one agency, Seniors Helping Seniors, is created solely for older adults to help their peers.
Because the older workers can themselves suffer from issues of aging, they may not work full time and may not plan to work many years, but while they are providing care to the nation’s seniors they are making a big difference!
Seniors Seeking Return to Work
Many retirees who have so long looked forward to free time find they are now bored and need something with which to fill their time. They can’t knit 24/7, read every book ever written or play golf for the next 20 years with no other hobbies to enjoy. This is when helping others becomes crucial. Not only is it fulfilling their need to stay engaged but is helping others too!
The village concept is also another way where seniors are helping seniors. The village is an aging in place concept where a community of neighbors form a membership where they help each other as needed. Help can include transportation, grocery shopping, home maintenance, technology support, social engagement and other non-medical support that will help seniors stay at home longer. They are self-supporting and self-governed organizations.
Giving care, filling a need, earning much needed income and staying involved in the local community while being in service to others is certainly beneficial to healthy, active seniors.
We believe this trend will continue and encourage family caregivers to get their older loved ones involved if they are looking to spend some time off the golf course or away yet another book. We know they will get back as much as they give (or more)!