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Published: March 20, 2024

Grid image of different Kendal staff

The numbers tell the story.

According to the U.S. census, about 1 in 6 people in the United States were age 65 and over in 2020. By 2030, all baby boomers will be age 65 and over.

An aging population means the demand for skilled workers in aging-related fields is growing. Yes, we need more STNAs and nurses and geriatricians, but also physical therapists, fitness instructors, grief counselors and creative arts therapists. Add to the mix the popularity of retirement communities such as Kendal at Oberlin and the demand for cooks and servers, housekeepers and grounds workers and the like are also growing.

That’s why the Gerontological Society of America hosts Careers in Aging Month every March.

“Many issues over the past few years have brought to the forefront the need for more professionals that provide care and services to the aging population. Opportunities abound in universities, senior living communities, hospitals, long-term care, assisted living communities, and other workplaces,” GSA explains.

And careers are diverse, as evidence by the Career Catalog that GSA has compiled. For instance, there are jobs related to animal care services. Along with the need for pet therapy animals, there is also a need for dog walkers and mobile groomers and veterinarians to help older adults with mobility limitations. The travel industry also has a demand for jobs that cater to older adult tours and recreational activities.

How Kendal has responded to the demand

Started in 2021, Kendal’s employee referral bonus program has several tiers with employees able to earn from $100 to $1,500 depending on the success of the referral.

Explains Denise Miller, Kendal’s Human Resources Recruiter (its first, also a nod to the changing demographics):

“This referral bonus program has proven beneficial, especially in our Dining Services area. We have many high school and college students working in the dining areas. More often than not, applicants talk about how happy their friends are to be working at Kendal and how excited they are to potentially be coming on board. Over the last several months, we have gone from having over 20 openings in the kitchen and dining areas to now having just a handful. This speaks volumes as to how well the referral bonus program is working.” 

Toni Merleno, Human Resources Director, says that Kendal has gotten creative in other ways.


“We have used our Career page from Kendal’s website to feature different careers other than nursing.  Our wonderful Sales & Marketing team have also partnered with HR to feature specific stories about employees in areas like Dining Services, Early Learning Center where we hire college-degreed preschool teachers, and our horticulturist who is also an arborist working on our 110+ acres of arboretum with our residents.  The best testimonies about working at Kendal in long-term care come from our employees who have stayed many years working for Kendal at Oberlin due to their love for our residents and the friendly ‘family’ atmosphere we enjoy while serving them together.”


One of the most popular career fields in the U.S. is STNAs (State-Tested Nursing Assistant), who are in demand for home health care as well as in retirement and medical facilities.

To be more competitive Kendal’s STNAs, called “Care Partners,” the job title chosen by the nursing assistants themselves, work at a ratio of approximately 1:14 depending on census. “This is a big selling point as other facilities have ratios of 1:40. Another advantage of working in our nursing care center is that not only are the Care Partners giving hands-on care, but so are our LPN's and RN's,” Denise says. 

As for the STNA three-week training class held at Kendal, candidates only pay a non-refundable $100 that goes toward their state test at the end of the course.

“Although we do not require the candidates to commit to working for us once they successfully pass the state test, we explain that there will be a position for them in that initial phone interview,” Denise says.  

Sharing employee stories

As Denise says, personal testimonies are one of the best ways to recruit more workers. Jenna Kellerman, Director of Workforce Strategy and Development for LeadingAge, agrees:

“My career pathway allowed me to become an assisted living leader by my mid-20s, a faster route to a leadership role than I would have attained in acute care. My career in aging also provided an opportunity to build strong bonds with assisted living residents because of their long-term residency. That’s often why aging services professionals stay in the field: they love the residents and clients they meet.

Recruiting for careers in aging has always presented a unique challenge because our society does not value aging or understand the caregiving profession. As a result, it’s not always easy to communicate effectively how wonderful and rewarding our work can be. But we must try. We can share our stories—and do it loudly.”


Why Oberlin ?

A Guide to Oberlin, Ohio- Dining, Shopping, and Attractions

See Why Oberlin is a Great Place to Live

Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.