How to Tap the Aging Labor Pool to Attract Frontline Workers

Programs and Resources

​​Three years after the initial onslaught of COVID, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities are still being crushed by the workforce shortage. In a recent survey by the AHCA/NCAL, 96% of nursing homes report challenges in hiring new applicants. Additionally, nearly half of U.S. nursing home providers say their workforce situation has worsened since May 2022.

Simultaneously, high inflation and unstable markets have left many older workers in a situation where they want and often need to work longer. The Harvard Business Review studied over 35,000 experienced US employees, and the lessons learned directly apply to the eldercare sector. With an obvious shortage of frontline workers and a significant number of aging workers wanting to work longer, leaders need to look for ways to tap this labor pool. Below are the top four principles to help attract and retain older workers. 

Create Respectful and Purposeful Roles 
Aging frontline healthcare workers want to feel like they are serving a purposeful role.  According to the study, six in 10 adults over age 50 are looking for positions that serve a social purpose. One Florida care home employs an 84-year-old front desk worker who stays out of a desire to serve. He said, “I feel blessed to be here because I can do something for older people… That sounds a little corny. But that’s the reason I’ve stayed for 17 years.” Designing positions with a purpose increases job satisfaction and the likelihood of employees staying on the job. 

Re-Examine Your Benefits Structure 
Your benefits structure can speak volumes when attracting aging workers. Older workers have different needs than their younger counterparts. Consider implementing different programs for this employee type such as Medicare supplement plans, guaranteed issue permanent life insurance, or critical illness insurance. The original Medicare plans pay for much, but not all costs for health care services. A Medicare supplement insurance, or Medigap policy, can cover remaining costs like copays, coinsurance, and deductibles. 

Guaranteed issue permanent life insurance offers permanent, portable, lifetime protection that can be customized to meet changing financial needs. These plans can be lifechanging for aging adults who can receive coverage regardless of health conditions, maintain an account that grows over time, and provide a death benefit for loved ones. 

Finally, group critical illness insurance can provide coverage for critical illnesses like heart attack, stroke, or cancer. The coverage often provides a lump-sum benefit that can cover medical costs, mortgage payments, and even groceries. 

Pay Early and Often 
Virtually every facility is in a scramble to find qualified applicants. Simply getting a prospective employee to accept an offer is not enough anymore. If it takes two weeks to process background information, that’s a paycheck or two that your prospective employee misses. Get accepted applicants on the ground as soon as possible to make that starting role look more attractive. 

Compensation was not among the top 10 factors for retention and recruitment of older employees. Focus on offering frequent pay periods and responsive pay accounting for inflation. The most significant takeaway – pay for the job rather than for tenure.  

Flexible Schedule 
Another great way to increase job satisfaction and retention for older employees is to have flexible schedules. Aging employees value latitude and leaves of absence in their schedules. Health and family arrangements often impact availability, and it’s essential to show respect for that. Offering part-time positions is an excellent way to allow your older labor force to attend to their personal needs while providing valuable work to your company. 

Tough times require creative solutions, and the aging workforce is far from past its time. Tackle ageist workforce structure traditions with these simple tips and watch your employee pool grow. 

Nick Cianci is president of Compass Total Benefit Solutions which is the exclusive partner of AHCA/NCAL Insurance Solutions.  AHCA/NCAL members receive discounts on a full array of health and employee benefits including Minimum Essential Coverage Plans, Minimum Value Plans and more through AHCA/NCAL Insurance Solutions.  For more information contact Nick Cianci at or (860) 416-5333. 

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