As life spans grow, so do the number of great jobs and business opportunities aimed at the needs of folks living longer. Younger people can hold those jobs — and so can you.
By 2030, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections, about 1 in 5 Americans will be over age 65. This demographic swing is creating a groundswell of new employment prospects. Where are the bulk of these jobs? Drumroll ... health care.
Health care jobs will grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.3 million positions. Slicing and dicing the health care category yields specific professions with even faster growth: Physician assistants up 37 percent; nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners up 31 percent; physical therapist assistants and aides up 30 percent.
But fear not if you have no medical training. The demographic shift is also bringing a swell of demand for senior-oriented jobs that aren’t medical. Evidence of this ramp-up is already visible. When my friend Carol visited her uncle Bob in a New Jersey assisted-living home, an instructor was leading a tap dance class to the tune of the Bee Gees’ 1977 hit “Stayin’ Alive.”
The second edition of my book AARP's Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work that Keeps You Happy and Healthy…and Pays the Bills has a chapter called “Jobs to Ride the Age Wave.” Below you’ll find five that are in strong demand. To land one, you might need to bolster your skills with schooling or certification. Some require physical strength. But all can satisfy that need to keep busy, not to mention bring in some extra dough.
1. Aging in place/Home modification pro
The nitty-gritty: Your task is to create or retrofit a home to make it work long term for people who want to age in place. Whether you’re a solo freelancer or employed by a contractor, you stay busy creating a plan or fitting a home with such features as brighter lighting, wheelchair ramps and grab bars in the shower. While many home modification specialists are professional builders and remodelers, there’s also room for architects, interior designers, occupational therapists and even landscape designers. Not to mention people who are just handy with tools.
Pay range: $40 per hour and up, but varies by region.
Qualifications: The National Association of Home Builders offers a course that teaches design and building techniques for making a home accessible to all ages.
The nitty-gritty: There is a growing need for drivers to transport older clients to appointments, activities, airports and even on longer road trips. You might work for a hospital or retirement home. Or you could go into business for yourself, building a circle of clients who value you for on-time pickup, safety on the road and friendly banter from the front seat.
Pay range: From $8 per hour to more than $20, plus car expenses if you use your own wheels. Those figures vary widely depending on experience, where you live, the number of hours worked and customer tips.
Qualifications: A safe driving record is of course a prerequisite. Don’t count on those moving violations going unnoticed — with corporate employment, background checks are standard. You might be asked to undergo drug screening, as well.
3. Health care/Patient advocate
The nitty-gritty: You help patients navigate this country’s complex medical system. You know how to get to the bottom of billing mistakes and contest insurance-coverage rejections. You might offer advice on medical decisions, help find a specialist, go with patients to appointments, coordinate multiple-doctor care and pick up prescriptions.
This job can entail working privately for one person or joining a staff as an advocate at a hospital, nursing home, rehab center or insurance company.
Pay range: $11.90 to $22.57 an hour, but pay can rise with experience, according to PayScale.com.
Qualifications: Community colleges and nonprofit organizations are developing training and certification programs to help people tackle this job. You’ll have the inside lane on these jobs if you’re already a medical professional, social worker or insurance expert. But the experience of having steered your own exasperating path (either for yourself or as a caregiver) through the medical system can also get you in the door.
No licenses are required to practice, but you should get credentialed. To learn more, contact the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants, a professional group in Berkeley, Calif., and the nonprofit Patient Advocate Foundation.
4. Medical equipment fixer
The nitty-gritty: Were you the kid who always took things apart in the garage for the fun of putting them back together? Whether it’s wheelchairs or oxygen masks, if you’ve got the fix-it gene, this might be your second career. The work can be physically demanding, as bending, crouching and standing go with the territory.
Employment of medical equipment repairers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS.
These jobs can be found at hospitals, assisted care communities, medical centers, physicians’ offices, health and personal care stores, and medical equipment wholesalers. You might be called in for emergency repairs, so fast work under pressure must be in your wheelhouse.
Pay range: $10.85 to $20.07 an hour, according to PayScale.com.
Qualifications: Education requirements depend on what kinds of equipment you’re working on. If you stick to hospital beds, gurneys and electric wheelchairs, you may learn entirely through on-the-job training. If you work on high-tech equipment such as CAT scanners and defibrillators, however, you may need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or biomedical equipment technology. Medical device manufacturers often provide technical training geared specifically to their products.
5. Move manager
The nitty-gritty: Downsizing — and making it fit — is your bailiwick. You are in charge of coordinating a move and configuring a new home setup. Your typical clients are relocating to smaller quarters, usually an apartment or retirement community. They need help choosing what’s going to make it to the new digs — furniture, artwork, china, collectibles and household goods. You tally up what can be sold, donated, or given to friends and family. You might be in charge of shopping for new furniture for the new pad or organizing a yard sale. Must be handy with a tape measure.
Pay range: After an initial assessment fee of around $100, rates can range from $30 per hour to $75-plus, according to move managers who specialize in downsizing seniors. The fee, however, can vary widely by geographic area and the services provided. You might be paid on an hourly basis, or bundle the cost of the entire job at one flat price.
Qualifications: Knowledge of interior design is essential, as is a calm but take-charge demeanor. For more information, contact the National Association of Senior Move Managers.
Bonus tip: Visit retirement and assisted living communities. Managers there often keep a list of moving specialists to refer to soon-to-be residents. Real estate offices may give you similar leads.
There are, of course, more than these five types of jobs. Some others are financial planner, retirement coach and fitness trainer (like that tap dancer leading the group in “Stayin’ Alive”). Keep alert to these and other jobs and you, too, could ride the age wave to a rewarding second career.
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50 +: Finding Work that Keeps You Happy and Healthy…and Pays the Bills, Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies, Love Your Job, and What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.