Intergenerational Index
The Grandfriends Project -- A Program Creating Friendships Across the Generations Martin Kimeldorf, the author

Careers in Geriatrics


This chapter explores different ways people make a living working with older citizens. The opportunities for working in homes, care facilities, or community centers will grow tremendously as the population in the United States (and many other countries) ages.

What does the phrase "aging population" mean? Consider the findings from a report written by the American Federation for Aging Research and the Alliance for Aging Research. This report was sent to the President in 1995 and cited the following facts:

Consider all these people and all this money being spent. Can you see why there will be more and more jobs for people who want to work with grandfriends or in a care facility? In this chapter, you'll consider different ways you could make a living by serving or working with older people.


Trisha (not her real name) was 12 when her grandfather had a stroke which left him unable to talk. This was a huge change for the big man who could hold a group of people spellbound with his stories and jokes. She figured he must be very lonely and perhaps even angry about not being able to talk. Trisha increased her visits to once a week, trying to keep him company. They communicated, using her laptop computer and typing back and forth. It was a slow and tedious way to carry on a conversation.

During the time Trisha visited weekly, she noticed a patient and soft-spoken woman also came to help her Grandfather. She was a speech pathologist and through her efforts she gradually helped Trisha's grandfather regain most of his speech. It took a long time, but they had a wonderfully happy birthday party that next spring. Seeing what the speech pathologist could do inspired Trisha. She decided that she would like to work with older people as a career. But she wasn't sure, what it was she wanted to do. Trisha like cooking, working with arts and crafts, listening to peoples' problems, and generally helping out.

The next summer she read about an elder couple who needed help with home and yard chores. Trisha applied and got the job. She helped with laundry, shopping, and cooking. She kept the lawn mowed. Her employers, Ruth and Bill McMurry, often invited her to sit and have tea with them. During these breaks she heard wonderful stories from the cheerful couple. Ruth had been an Army nurse and worked on two battlefields. Bill was a pilot and had been just about everywhere.

During her Junior year in high school Trisha enrolled in the Grandfriends Project. She formed a close relationship with her grandfriend, Alice, who was in her late 80s. This was a special accomplishment because Alice had chosen not to talk with any staff or other residents except at meal time.

Mary Lou, the activities coordinator, observed Trisha's ability to relate with the residents and invited the student to come back as a volunteer on weekends. Trisha relished the invitation and soon was a regular helper during the weekend bowling and sing-along activities. As time went on, Trisha was given more and more responsibility. Soon she was suggesting new activities, planning events, and recruiting students from her school to assist on weekends.

As the school year wound down Mary Lou invited Trisha to lunch. She praised her for being responsible and dedicated, and having a special knack for working with older adults. While the budget did not allow for hiring a new person, Mary Lou offered to pay Trisha a stipend of fifty dollars a month for her efforts. Trisha was flattered and wanted to turn down the money at first. "No, you must take it. We've come to rely on you Trisha. How about if we put the money in a fund and you can use it later as scholarship." Trisha was grateful and finally agreed to this.

She had read about the growing need to provide services to senior citizens and thought she might like to be either a nurse or a geriatric care social worker. Since the local vocational center had a nurse's assistant program, she decided to enroll in the program in the next year, while maintaining her responsibilities at the nursing home.

By the time she graduated, Trisha knew exactly what she wanted to do and was the recipient of three scholarships. As she waited to be called up to receive her diploma, her thoughts roamed back across the four years in high school. In that warm June evening she thought about her grandfather, the speech pathologists, her neighbors Ruth and Bill. She realized that these experiences and her training in the Grandfriends Project had been the first step in a longer journey which had lead to this moment…a moment which now opened on a future full of promise.


If you go to a large care facility, you might see businesses and services which could interest you. People are involved in various service jobs: preparing meals, doing laundry, maintaining the outdoors, working in offices, answering phones.

You might see service workers giving residents haircuts (cosmetologists) and nail manicures, advising people about finances (bankers and insurance brokers), teaching classes, and providing entertainment. Some places even invite small businesses to bring their services onto the site. They set up small branch offices of their main office. Some larger facilities are like a small village with small stores and offices for banking, travel agencies, insurance brokers, beauty parlors and convenience stores. People working for a large facility may be involved with sales, doing office work for medical records, serving as a receptionist, providing recreation and therapy services, crafts, helping with nursing, and coordinating volunteers, and driving buses. There are many different ways you can use your talents working with or around grandfriends.

Some specific occupations related to working with future grandfriends might include the following jobs associated with what is called "geriatric" care. Some of these jobs need college degrees, others require that you earn a certificate or pass a test. Many jobs require no previous specialized training. However, almost all the employers provide some kind of training on the job. Employers are looking for a person with a special sensitivity towards older people, perhaps a person such as yourself, who has been a grandfriend volunteer and trainee. In fact, many people go into the geriatric field after first exploring the field as a volunteer.

You may want to start your own business. One lady began a Sitting Services Owner which organizes "sitters" who care for older people in their homes. Her income was low at first when she started the business, around $15,000. As the business grew she was able to make upwards of $50,000. A DOT code for this job could be 166.167-030.

You can read about these jobs in short pamphlets called Vocational Biographies. (These are available at Vocational Biographies, Sauk Centre, MN 56378 or phone 1-800-225-0752.)


In the next assignment you'll review job descriptions for two possible jobs. Then you'll consider if you would like a paid job working with older people. Finally, you'll consider jobs you could get after you complete your Grandfriend Project. These will typically be entry level beginning jobs. Should you go on to college for training in the geriatric field, you'll find these entry jobs will help you move ahead or get employed more quickly. Do you know why? Alternately, you could start with an entry level job, take a few courses later, and gradually move up at the place you work.

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Martin Kimeldorf,
© 1999
All Rights Reserved.
Amby Duncan-Carr,
page designer
Material from both THE GRANDFRIENDS PROJECT, A Program Creating Friendships Across The Generations and the companion piece, PROJECT LEADER'S GUIDE FOR THE GRANDFRIENDS PROJECT, A Program Creating Friendships Across The Generations is reproduced here with the permission of the publisher, Fairview Press. Printing or downloading a single copy of this document for personal use is permitted; teachers may reproduce this document for use in a single classroom, only. Transmission in any form or further duplication is prohibited without the express written consent of the author. In addition, any use of the document code, itself, requires the written permission of the web page designer.

Kimeldorf Bibliography
Amby's Resources
Kimeldorf Autobiography

© 1999   Amby Duncan-Carr   All Rights Reserved.

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