ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A new degree being offered at UCF this semester is working to help combat that, by bridging hospitality and healthcare together in a career they say is pandemic-proof.
The pandemic has eliminated many jobs in Central Florida, leaving many out of work and students in school looking for a new path for their future.
“There’s always going to be a need for someone with a big smile on their face and a passion for making sure people are taken care of,” said Connor Estes.
Estes is a freshman at UCF freshman and came to Central Florida with his eye on a career in hospitality.
When he heard about the new ‘senior living management’ courses being offered while on a tour of the school, he decided to sign right up.
“I grew up in Naples, which is the old, rich person capital of the world, so we’ve got a senior living facility just about on every corner," Estes said. "I’ve really seen how pervasive the industry can be."
“Seniors have already accepted that this is not their grandparent’s industry, this is something else altogether,” said Dr. Abraham Pizam, a professor and founding dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at UCF.
Dr. Pizam said demand for senior living is increasing dramatically.
In Central Florida, the population of senior-age adults is expected to reach one million by 2030.
New senior living projects are being built to keep up, including a 43-acre planned community affiliated with UCF called Legacy Pointe that is currently under construction.
“People who are moving there are moving at a younger age, and their expectations are significantly higher. It’s not uncommon to go into a facility and see the quality of care and quality of facility equivalent to a five star hotel,” Pizam said.
The industry nationwide is shifting with that demand, with more high-end facilities catering both to offer health and wellness of seniors, but events and activities for socialization and increased quality of life, as well.
“Hospitality is more than an industry. Hospitality is a culture,” Pizam said.
UCF’s new degree merges healthcare, geriatrics and hospitality management disciplines to prepare students to take on managerial positions in this booming industry.
Unlike other hospitality jobs, Pizam said they’re not making cuts or layoffs from the pandemic, but growing.
Decades of job security and ability to help and care for others has students, like Estes, seriously considering this degree and career for his future.
“Bringing people joy is what really has gotten me into the hospitality industry and I see this as a great opportunity, and an avenue in which I can do that,” Estes said.
This is the first semester the senior living management courses and degree program are being offered at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
UCF is one of five schools in the U.S. offering a senior living management degree, according to Pizam, but theirs is only one that merges healthcare and geriatrics with hospitality management together.
For more information about the degree program, visit the UCF site here.