People: Trained and committed individuals are needed to meet the needs of older adults.
With fewer people entering the labor force, and the field of aging in particular,13 where will your future staff come from? And, how can you ensure they have the expertise needed to meet your consumers’ expectations? This challenge exists in large part because of principle number two, Perceptions. Until we change the negative perceptions associated with both aging and working with older adults, we will continue to see a shortage of expertise within our field and within society itself. So how do you implement this principle in your organization? The place to start is with a review of the competency levels of your staff. Keep in mind that people are one of the significant ongoing costs for most organizations. Poor people choices and poor training equal poor results.
Once you have established your staff’s current level of expertise, set out to enhance it with additional training and knowledge gathering. Yes, this will cost you money. But incompetent staff will cost you much more over time in terms of lost business, a poor reputation and a disappointing return on investment.
Where should you look for training and knowledge enhancement? Seek out universities, colleges, or certification providers that offer courses geared to working with an older population. Then, make sure these courses focus on active aging and wellness as a way to support independence for older adults. (Training staff with outdated information will do nothing but continue poor results.) You can also partner with associations, governmental groups, and content providers to enhance staff development in areas ranging from communications to programming. In addition, consider seeking out student interns. This may help you build a solid base for future recruitment. No matter which avenues you use, it’s vital for your organization to have the right people on staff and the right educational partner.
Still, time waits for no one. Although fewer people in the field of aging presents challenges for organizations that serve this group, it also creates opportunities for those open to exploring alternative solutions. This is highly evident in the field of robotics. From cutting lawns and cleaning pools to building cars and disarming bombs, robots are increasingly used today to perform tasks, even if we do not realize it. Honda’s ASIMO, billed as “the world’s most advanced humanoid robot,” signals what robotics might offer our field.14 Among its many capabilities, ASIMO can walk, carry things, ascend and descend stairs, and run at speeds of nearly four miles per hour. We can expect to see more of ASIMO in the future, as well as other robotic applications under development to address this shortage of workers. Dare we say it: The rise of the robots has begun.
A thought to ponder: How will this seismic demographic shift impact your organization’s staffing, both now and in the future? Are you prepared?
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