Seniors care industry faces many challenges to maintain a stable workforce

24 May 2023

As a trusted leader in Calgary’s seniors housing market, Silvera is also a committed advocate for affordable seniors’ housing. We partner with all levels of government to ensure independent older adults have access to safe and affordable housing options, as well as the important services and supports that help them age in place. During the provincial election campaign, Silvera is advocating for four key priorities: workforce stability; 24/7 home care; more affordable housing, and outbreak funding.

Having enough qualified people doing a great job of caring for seniors is one of the most important priorities for Silvera.

Our nearly 400 employees include a variety of direct service positions in our supportive living communities such as housekeepers, cooks, dining attendants, community managers and Life, Learning, and Leisure coordinators, in addition to the placement coordinators and others who keep the organization running.

“We face different challenges maintaining a stable contingent of employees,” says Michael Stuart, Chief Human Resources Officer. “Like many organizations in our industry, we have fairly high turnover due to lower wages, taxing work, and the fact that many employees manage multiple jobs.”

Having a well-trained and stable workforce is critical to appropriately support the residents who live with us. But finding and keeping those employees isn’t always easy.

“In some ways, the supportive living seniors’ care sector is invisible. Potential employees – and many people overall – don’t know much about the industry and the careers that are available with us,” Michael says.

Silvera and our industry peers compete with the hospitality and long-term care industries for employees. “And like those other sectors, much of the work we offer is rewarding but can also be emotionally draining and physically demanding,” Michael says.

According to the Alberta Living Wage Network, Calgary’s living wage in 2022 was $22.40 per hour. The lowest wage level on Silvera’s wage grid currently starts at $18.50 an hour, which is $3.90 per hour lower than Calgary’s living wage. With government funding mechanisms not keeping up with inflationary cost pressures, Silvera will be unable to close this gap, despite efforts to create efficiencies and re-allocate resources.

Low wages can make it difficult for Silvera to both compete for qualified employees and retain the employees we’ve invested significant time and effort into training.

“A sector-wide focus on increasing wages would be helpful to attract people to this industry,” says Michael.

Doing so would also potentially reduce the number of employees who are required to maintain multiple jobs, in addition to caring for their families and other responsibilities.

“About one-quarter of our employees work at Silvera and at least one other place,” Michael says. “Some individuals choose to work elsewhere, and some are forced into that. Either way, working more than one job is an added stressor for many of our employees and a safety risk for them and us.”

Double-digit staff turnover results in the need to continually train new people, which is hard on existing employees as well as the residents who have different people providing services in their lives every day.

“Ultimately, we’re advocating for employee wage stability because we want residents to be comfortable and secure, and we also want our employees to live good, full, healthy lives now and well into their own futures as seniors,” Michael says.