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Last week, Governor Dayton kicked off his statewide jobs tour with a visit to PioneerCare in Fergus Falls. During his visit, Dayton spent a significant amount of time talking with administrator Nathan Johnson and the senior staff at PioneerCare, focused specifically on the unique workforce challenges and opportunities that exist in the field of older adult services.

It’s no surprise that Governor Dayton would choose a long-term care provider as the first stop on a statewide jobs tour – the long-term care sector in Minnesota generates nearly $7 billion in economic activity across the state. Older adult service providers are job-creators who play a significant role in the economic vitality of their communities.

If Minnesota is going to meet the growing demand for a full spectrum of housing, support services and health care for older adults, we will need to develop new career paths in long-term care and ways to attract and retain the very best workforce. As providers transform the ways they deliver care and services to meet the demands of today’s seniors, we also must ensure that the career opportunities in this field reflect the changing skills, interests and demands of the next generation of our workforce.

The Health Support Specialist apprenticeship program is a perfect example of a new workforce model for older adult services designed to do just that. This first-of-its kind program cross-trains workers to build the skills and confidence to perform a much wider range of roles and responsibilities within the emerging “household model” of delivering care.

This new position offers greater depth of responsibility, more job satisfaction and higher wages for employees, while delivering a new kind of customer service for residents and greater overall value and flexibility for employers. Often described as the “blended worker” model, this is just one example of the kinds of new ideas that will shape the future of Minnesota’s health care workforce.

Click here to read about how the team at PioneerCare is thinking about these issues, and how they spent their time talking with Governor Dayton.

What is your organization doing to attract and retain the next generation of workers? What are the challenges you’re facing as you build your team?


“You live your life the way you want.” That’s how Ecumen’s vice president of business development recently described the company’s philosophy regarding the experience of all seniors who live in one of their communities.

That’s what we all strive for, right? Housing, support, services and eventually care that are all driven by what we want for our lives; guided by decisions we’ve made about what’s best for us and our families.

But that quote – “live your life the way you want” – also got me thinking about something we all try to avoid: Will there be a point at which, no matter how much support I have, I won’t really be able to live my life the way I want? What then? I don’t foresee a situation where I will want to need 24-hour care or be limited in my physical or mental abilities to make my own choices – but none of us knows what the future will hold.

Fifty may be the new 30, and 80 sure isn’t what it used to be – but none of us can outrun the clock, and at some point we will need help. In fact, statistics show that if we make it to age 65, 80 percent of us will need some type of long-term care.

That’s why it’s so important that we – as individuals, families, communities, lawmakers and care providers – are honest about the realities of growing older and talk about the full spectrum of needs and choices we’ll eventually face.

Those choices might start with adding some help and services to make life easier and safer or moving to a new community that provides companionship and new adventures. Eventually, it could include tough choices about how and where we want to live out our last days.

What do you think? Do you talk with your spouse or family about how you want to live your life into old age? If you’re a provider, how does the “live your life the way you want” philosophy makes its way into your organization? What can lawmakers do to support the full spectrum of long-term care options?


A recent Washington Post article highlights the variety of ways communities across the country are adjusting to meet the changing needs of an aging population.

What I love about this article is not just that it addresses the practical realities that come with an older population, but that it also provides great insight into how broad and far-reaching the impacts of aging really are.

Many of us focus on the immediate family decisions and stresses that come along with an aging loved one – decisions about whether or when to seek additional support, move out of a life-long home, or directly address end-of-life issues.

But what about the less obvious challenges – and opportunities – of aging? For example:

  •  The need for new transportation options to accommodate active seniors who want to shop and socialize the way they used to, but no longer drive themselves.
  • In Minnesota, we’ll soon have more people aged 65+ than kids in school – that will bring some challenges, but what about the amazing resource at our fingertips? How are we engaging older Minnesotans to help teach our kids or support and volunteer in schools?

What else? Is your community doing anything unique to meet the needs of an aging population? Are there opportunities we’re missing?

It would be great to hear from city planners, first responders and other city officials if you’re working on anything on this particular topic…

A few years ago, Aging Services of Minnesota launched this blog as a way to provide timely updates on policy and advocacy activities at the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C. After a year-long hiatus, we’re excited to report we’re reviving the blog! We’ll still include important advocacy updates and engagement opportunities, but we’re also going to expand the discussion to a broader mix of topics.

Every morning as I make my way through multiple news sources and the crazy, wonderful world of social media, I stumble onto stories about aging and older adult services that make me think. Fascinating stories about individual people who are breaking the rules and redefining what it means to age today, innovative providers who are paving the way to the future and family members asking deep philosophical questions as they realize that age is taking its toll on a loved one. This is the world we live and work in, and it just begs for more conversation.

We also want to use this space to shine a light on the talented, dedicated, innovative people and organizations that are shaping the field of aging services in Minnesota. Their stories don’t often make the front page of the paper, but they are truly inspirational and deserve to be shared far and wide.

We’ll use the Aging Exchange blog to ask questions, give props, and share stories that put a human face on the complex issues of aging and long-term care.

We hope you’ll visit often and most importantly, join the conversation! If you have a story, idea or big question we should feature on the blog, please share it! Here are a few ways to connect with us:

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Aging matters to all of us.

This blog will address the issues, questions, challenges and opportunities that surface as we work to meet the demands of an aging population.

It’s also a place to highlight the people and organizations whose passion, creativity and commitment are shaping the future of older adult services in Minnesota.

Everyone has a story about how aging impacts their life – we hope you’ll join the conversation and share your story.

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