In recognition of the growing senior housing industry, one West Coast school is bolstering its course offerings to suit the needs of those looking to enter the field in a professional capacity.
Washington State University recently added a Senior Living Management class to its undergraduate curriculum, taught by executives and other professionals from four top senior housing companies that are headquartered locally in Seattle.
“The goal is to expose these students to senior housing as a career option,” says Bill Pettit, President of Merrill Gardens and one of the course’s teachers. “These students get a good background in business and hospitality which makes them strong candidates to work in senior housing.”
Nearly one out of every five Americans will be age 65 or older by 2030, U.S. Census data projects, and as the population ages, the demand for senior living management will increase.
With this in mind, the Seattle senior housing executives are focused on raising up a generation that’s prepared to meet upcoming demand, and the course has been so well-received that WSU wants to offer again in the upcoming spring and fall semesters, Pettit told SHN.
The other three ad hoc faculty members are Aegis Living President and COO Jerry Meyer, Emeritus President Granger Cobb, and Leisure Care Senior Vice President Jason Childers; Pettit says they’re committed to making the five-hour drive each Wednesday from their respective companies’ headquarters in Seattle for the three-hour class.
Each class is taught by a different group of professionals from the four companies. Offered through WSU’s College of Business/School of Hospitality Business Management, which is recognized as one of the top ten such programs in the world, the course covers all aspects of senior housing, including operations, quality services, lifestyle, dining services, marketing, financials, demographics and global opportunities, says Pettit.
“The students in the class tell us that they really had no idea that senior housing provided so many opportunities,” he says. “We believe that senior housing provides a huge opportunity for these students. This is a growth industry and it is going to continue to grow for decades. People can come into the industry today and build a great career path.”
All four companies involved in the course have been very impressed with the students so far, says Pettit, who told SHN that four students from the class about a dozen will each receive a $2,500 scholarship.
“Each company is also looking to find interns from the class,” he says. “Students who are interested in senior housing will have a great opportunity to be recruited by the companies involved.”
Only a handful of higher education institutions across the U.S., including George Mason University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Erickson School, offer programs focused on the senior housing and care market, but a growing number of universities are providing certificates and individual courses on senior living topics, according to the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry. The semester-long course offered at WSU is the only of its kind on the West Coast.
Written by Alyssa Gerace