Why this 25-year-old built a career in the senior living industry

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I am among the first students to start a masters program in the new Boston University senior living concentration. It is offered by the School of Hospitality Administration. It might seem odd that a 25-year old would choose to enter the senior living industry.

My journey began 10 years ago when I was 15 years old. After school, I began volunteering weekly at a retirement home outside of Boston. The director of life enrichment encouraged me to introduce myself to all the residents I could. Every week I looked forward, week after week, to spending time with residents and listening to their stories, learning from their wisdom.

As I made my rounds, I was amazed at how much I had learned from these life lessons. These lessons were written down by me and I had 80 pages of magic by the end.

What I learned from seniors living in senior living

One shared thought resonated most in all of my conversations: the idea that we should look back at the stresses of our everyday lives. This taught me to stop and think about the stressors in my daily life.

Before I joined the commercial real-estate companies CBRE and JLL to learn more about the financial side, I spent my high school years and college years working in senior living communities. I gained experience in all types of senior living, including memory care, assisted living, and independent living. To understand the care they gave their residents, I looked at their management methods. I was also able to observe how residents experienced different aspects of care and how they could have been improved.

I did my market research, then shared the residents' concerns with the leadership. The residents' feedback inspired me to seek out solutions.

It was then that I realized I wanted to make a career in senior living. I would dedicate my life to improving the experience of residents and trying to change the often negative perceptions of the sector.

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I enrolled in the BU program to get started. This university was the first to recognize the importance and value of this industry. The program offers electives like Monitoring the Resident Journey and Experience, Senior Living Operations, and The Business of Seniors Housing. Industry professionals will also be teaching these electives. I will also be able take classes at BU's schools of public health and social work.

What is the point of a masters degree in senior living?

Leora Lanz is the assistant dean of academic affairs in BU's School of Hospitality Administration. She explained the main reasons that the university offered the senior living program. She explained that this industry is the ideal balance of hospitality and altruistic purpose. This is something many students have sought after in their careers.

She also stated that there is so much potential for growth in senior living.

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Personally, I believe it is vital to remove stigmas that have instilled fear in society about aging. These fears and stigmas can be squashed by encouraging young people to get involved in senior living. This will in turn bring new ideas and life to the industry, which will serve current and future residents.

So that we can accept and enjoy aging, it is important to not fear it.

Although I understand that senior living is not a popular field for young people, I believe programs such as the one Ill be participating in will change that. We are all going to age and, if we are lucky, many of those in our 20s today will live well into our 70s, 80s or 90s.

Once I heard that senior living is a small but rich industry with many opportunities for those who are willing to search them. It sounds to me right.

My studies will allow me to learn from industry professionals, and I hope to gain the skills necessary to succeed in this rapidly changing industry. My peers and I will be able to bring a hospitality mindset to senior living by studying senior living at BU's School of Hospitality Administration.

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As I progress in my senior living career, I hope to help it focus on longevity, wellness, and do my part in changing the world's view of aging.

Serena Lipton works as an analyst at JLL Valuation & Advisory Services. She specializes in seniors housing and health care practices. She is a Boston University School of Hospitality Administration Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Administration.

This article was reprinted with permission from NextAvenue.org, Inc. 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc.

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