If you were to go to the average elementary school in the Bryan/College Station (BCS) area to ask the children what they want to be when they grow up, you would be hard pressed to find one that chooses aging services. It probably comes as no surprise that the senior services industry seems to get overlooked by the younger generation on career day.
But that might be changing as the trends in this younger group are beginning to shift. A recent survey conducted by Uptree reveals 57% of Generation Z respondents are making career choices based on jobs that are meaningful, while 72% are looking for careers that align with their passion.
This certainly rings true for Ashlyn Cassidy, 21 years old, who serves as the community's HealthCare Sales Counselor. When Ashlyn was a teen, she wanted to be a nurse. This passion was initially ignited when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she took on the role of caregiver. "I knew then that I wanted to have a career where I could help people. But honestly, I imagined that I'd work with children, not seniors," shared Cassidy. All that changed when her grandfather died from the Coronavirus in 2020. The circumstances around his death changed her entire perspective. "He died lonely and spent much of his final days alone, due to the virus. That's when I knew that I needed to help older adults. I wanted to be someone who could make a difference after seeing his experience," she expressed.
It was then that she went to school to become a Certified Nurse's Aide (CNA). She was soon hired on at Creekside, an MRC community in Huntsville, working the COVID isolation wing during the height of the pandemic with those elders who had tested positive for the virus. She explained, "I wanted to work that area of the building, it wasn't required, I volunteered. I wanted to make sure that families got video calls as much as they could, and that the elder never felt alone the way my grandfather did." Ashlyn's passion and devotion paid off when she was offered an opportunity to grow with the organization by taking the HealthCare Sales Counselor job at Crestview. While she didn't set out to join the world of aging services, she explains that it has been a tremendous blessing, "I love my job because the residents and I really aren't so different. They went through similar things that I am going through now when they were my age. My favorite part is how they encourage me to follow the Lord, and that I work in a faith-based job that celebrates those types of conversations with residents."
Elijah Ayala also 21, was raised by his grandparents, making him feel right at home with older adults from the start. However, Elijah didn't really have any specific aspirations to join the industry, the door opened, so he walked through it. Ayala joined the maintenance department in 2020 at only eighteen years old. "I really needed a job, and this seemed like a good opportunity," shared Ayala. Along the way Elijah began making connections with the residents that ignited a passion. Coming to work began to feel more like being a part of a family than it felt like a job. He explained, "I honestly don't feel like I'm at work when I am here. I feel like I am at my second home, hanging out with my friends, helping them out with the things they need. It's fun and I love being here." It is important to note that when Elijah uses the term "friends," he is referring to the residents. "The friendships I have made here are awesome. They give me advice, they have helped me become who I am now," said Ayala. He went on to describe the advantage he feels he has over his peers who have selected more traditional trades or customer services jobs. He shared, "My friends don't get to have the connections at their job like I do. I would tell anyone my age to get a job here but make sure you get a job that allows you to spend lots of time with the residents because that is the best part. That's why I love my job and that's why I'm never leaving." When pressed about what he sees in his future, Elijah was quick to reemphasize, "No, I'm not leaving, I want to work here forever. Why would I leave? This is like family."
Approximately 23% of the employees at Crestview are made up of this fresh to the workforce group, all under the age of 25 years old. The studies seem to reveal what seems to be true across the industry, this generation is coming into the workforce with a very high value placed on connection and meaning. This group that missed out on a traditional prom and graduation due to the pandemic now seems to crave the relational work that is uniquely found in aging services. Perhaps the time of prolonged isolation during such a formative time in their lives created this passion. Whatever it is, it is clear that the young people of BCS are showing up with the kind of heart that makes a difference in the lives of the elders.