WSU students headed for senior-living careers

A new wave of professionals in the senior-living industry may come from Washington State Univerrsity.

WSU’s School of Hospitality Business Management has launched its Institute for Senior Living, which university officials said will educate the next generation of senior-living specialiststo deal with the estimated 75 million baby boomers who are winding down their careers and planning the next phase of their lives.

“Gone are the days of the stereotypical old folks-home bingo and pinochle crowd. Seniors are living longer, healthier lives and need communities that can keep up,” said Scott Eckstein, assistant professor of hospitality business management at WSU-Everett. “The industry desperately needs a highly skilled workforce, innovation and collaboration.”

The institute will focus on three initiatives to help build the future workforce: Academic programs, industry partnerships and research. Academic programs to prepare students for careers in senior living are the top priority.

The new WSU program was originally developed in partnerships with Aegis Living, Merrill Gardens, Emeritus (now Brookdale), and Leisure Care. Additional industry partners, including NIC and Argentum, have helped shape and expand the senior-living management curriculum from a single introductory course offered as an elective under the hospitality business management major, to courses offered across the state and a new, online  certificate option. According to Eckstein, further collaboration will help the institute eventually offer a new senior-living major for undergraduate students.

“Industry partnerships serve two purposes,” said Eckstein. “They ensure content being taught in the classroom reflects the actual needs and trends in the industry, and help students build professional skills through work experiences in the senior living space.”

WSU “has a running start on addressing the deficit of trained professionals needed to manage the exploding demand for seniors housing,” said Jerry Meyer, president of Aegis Living. “The institute will be a real gift to the industry.”

CCOB at Bishop Place