Fresh Out of College – Why I Decided to Work with the Oldies

Today’s blog is dedicated to all my peers who still can’t figure out why I decided to work with “old fogies” when I graduated from college six years ago.  The majority of my friends seem to have taken up jobs as consultants, teachers, grad students, physical therapists, and other occupations that are typical for people my age.  Why not right?  Well, when I was in my final semester of senior year in the spring of 2005, I was not quite sure what direction I was going to take.  Who does?  I had majored in Business Administration and if you ask me, this major could have taken me anywhere.

The two ideas I had in my head at the time was to either work with kids or seniors.  If you gave most college grads the option, I’d be extremely surprised who wouldn’t choose a trip to school over the nursing home. There seemed to be so many options if I wanted to work with children.  I had worked summer camps, vacation bible schools, and I was an active and energetic person, which is much needed when working with kids. On top of that, my oldest sister was a teacher and she encouraged me to consider this option.  “You’d be good at it!” she told me.  I had a whole lot of friends who were pursuing teaching, so it was exciting to consider this option.   Meaningful too.  Teachers are so important in society.  That’s what everyone was telling me.

Now I won’t downsize the importance of teachers. After all, I work in senior care and my husband of over a year happens to be a first grade teacher, so I do know how important teachers are and by golly, how much work they do!  At that time, however, when I was trying to decide what to do in my life, the question kept coming up, “kids or seniors?”.  I had volunteered for four years in the nursing home ministry at Houghton College, volunteered at a nursing home in Hong Kong during my semester abroad, and had grown up aging with my grandparents.  The times I was with seniors always were meaningful, even if it was just a 10 minute visit to one of my friends at the Waters of Houghton (the local nursing home) or a quick conversation with my grandparents, Mama and Yeye. I wanted to work in an area where there was great need and people had definitely convinced me that investing in our future generation was truly needed.  But that’s when it hit me.  If all my friends wanted to work with kids, who was going to work with the seniors???

A classmate’s father happened to hear this question of “kids or seniors”? from me and through his guidance, I found out that the field of seniorcare is so full of opportunity.  Through my experiences with seniors, it seemed like my only option had been to become a nurse and work in a nursing home.  “There’s a great need for good nursing home administrators” he had told me and the idea of need came back into my mind.  This mentor of mine showed me that in senior care, there are so many unimaginable opportunities for young people like myself and years later, I can see that he was completely right.

What I think every college grad or anyone working adult wants is to find a job where your gifts are utilized and your work makes a difference.   I think that could have been achieved in either arena whether I worked with children or older adults.  But what I realized during that final semester was that my interest and care for older adults was unique and uncommon for someone my age.  There was a need and noone else I knew who would fill it.  I still have friends who hear me say I love my job.  Interested possibly for their own career, they ask me, “what do you do again?” When I answer “I work with seniors”, they shrug disappointed and quickly uninterested.  I know that they don’t get it.  But that’s okay because I couldn’t be happier.  My job is meaningful almost daily and even more, it provides me the chance to touch the lives of people who need some loving.

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6 thoughts on “Fresh Out of College – Why I Decided to Work with the Oldies

  1. paulfal says:

    Great article! It is encouraging to see young people write about the value of working with older adults. I started about 20 years ago, and I can tell you it was and remains one of the best decisions of my life. Working with older adults is different than working with children, because the older adults have so much wisdom to share; wisdom we all need. As a result, they have enriched my life and appreciation for living as no one else could have.

  2. Jennifer says:

    You seem to have read my mind! My mom is a teacher and she tried to push me into teaching but i insisted on working with old people. I'm in my 20's and just got my MBA and still LOVE my job working at an assisted living home. I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks this way 🙂

  3. Tony Sexton, Site Administrator says:

    Thank you for your work!! It is rewarding and a critical profession. I wrote an article recently about a “new” generation, the Millennial Generation who will be leading our Nursing Homes. We have great Residents and we need great care-givers for our Residents!

    Keep up the great work, I have enjoyed your blog.

    Tony Sexton
    Midwest Senior Advocacy
    http://midwestsenioradvocacy.blogspot.com/2011/03/bye-bye-to-us-four-and-no-more.html

  4. Isabel Tom says:

    Thank you all for your posts and I am happy to hear that people actually enjoy reading this! I have gotten a lot of great feedback from friends about what topics they'd love to for me to write on next. I will have to keep up!

  5. Amy says:

    I, too, have always been thought of as a bit 'strange' for working with older adults. In college, when all of my peers were going into youth ministry and children's ministry, I knew that older adult ministry was the place for me. I've never once regretted my decision!

    Amy Hanson
    http://www.amyhanson.org

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