As the Labor Day holiday approaches, it’s useful to think about how the concept of work has changed over the last 100 years. What used to be a means to an end is now, in many cases, a significant source of personal fulfillment and a part of our identities. In other words, what formerly was considered, well, work, is now, supposed to be well, a kind of fun. If it’s not, then the zeitgeist goes, you might be in the wrong profession.  

Which brings me to the workforce shortage. Given the modern definition of work, home care is on to the idea that a big part of solving the crisis is to retool the perception of the home care worker. Creating career lattices, treating CNA workers as professionals and giving employees wages and benefits commensurate with professionals are ways to grow the field and keep people in it.

Essentially, these positive shifts help reinforce the idea of work as a valuable pursuit and elevate the job to something beyond menial labor. They imply that being a frontline worker is a calling,  a way to bring good into the world, a profession on par with being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher.

Many home care organizations are working vigorously to reshape the image of the home care worker. LeadingAge has set aside September for National Workforce Development Month to help support and celebrate the aging services workforce. The Home Care Workforce Action Alliance, meanwhile, also is actively engaged in heightening the profile of the profession and enticing people into the field.

Perhaps another group — seniors — also can help show the way on this. As an example, it’s no secret that many older adults turn to franchise ownership as they approach retirement. It offers financial security and a new outlet for entrepreneurship. As two Seniors Helping Seniors franchise owners told me recently, starting a franchise is a good way to both do good and try something new and interesting.

“When I retired I said to Sue, what other ways can we help?” Terry Wilk, 69, said. “We looked at other franchises and we really liked the mission of Seniors Helping Seniors.”

Older adults who are looking to develop themselves personally and professionally as they age may be in the best position to bestow the wisdom of meaningful work to younger workers.

Let’s get to work.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].