California Assisted Living Association (CALA) 2022 Spring Conference

June 29, 2022

Observations on the California Assisted Living Association (CALA) 2022 Spring Conference by Samuel Leale, M.A. in Gerontology Student, San Francisco State University

The California Assisted Living Association (CALA) hosts a Conference twice a year. During the spring, attendees travel to Monterey Bay, California to reconnect with other professionals in the field of assisted living and learn about new and developing concepts to improve their work in senior housing. The Conference offers continuing education credits for its many lectures that cover a wide range of topics including ethical, legal, and operational implications of decision-making, the habits and strategies of intentional leaders, navigating resident sexual rights with cognitive changes, the benefit of dementia adapted reading materials, and nature therapy to support resident well-being just to name a few. As a student of San Francisco State University’s (SF State) Gerontology Program, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to apply for the CALA Scholarship to attend this Conference. With keen support from my faculty adviser Professor Darlene Yee-Melichar, I submitted her strong letter of recommendation as part of a comprehensive application package.

As a successful Scholarship recipient, I was the grateful awardee of a good number of unique opportunities not readily available to all students. First, I was able to attend the Conference with very little out-of-pocket cost thanks to the CALA Scholarship. In addition, I was able to meet and connect with other Scholarship recipients-- most of whom were current graduate students like myself, or taking their first steps into the field of assisted living. The ability to connect with others in the beginning stages of their career in the field of aging was a great relief, as we were able to share our own stories, questions, and challenges with each other and find a common ground and some helpful and practical answers.

In addition to connecting with others just entering the field, Scholarship recipients were also given the opportunity to conduct “speed interviews” with a number of event sponsors, all of whom had sent HR or Operations directors to find new and upcoming talent to bring into their organizations. The interviews, although initially overwhelming, were ultimately the most significant part of the event for Scholarship recipients. They provided an opportunity to ask questions relating to the industry and shared their own experience in moving through their careers and the steps they took. In addition, the interviews facilitated the opportunity to develop professional connections with a number of well-established assisted living providers and share our own experiences and interests in the field and how they might be applicable to their needs.

This was significant in helping Scholarship recipients get a foot in the door, so to speak, into a potential position in the senior housing field. In my personal experience with the CALA Spring Conference as a whole, I was very surprised by the sense of camaraderie between all of the attendees. I quickly learned that although a large industry, the field of assisted living is strongly interconnected, with many professionals likening the event to more of a family reunion than a professional networking and educational event. Every attendee had a clear passion and dedication to quality service and care of older adults, regardless of their position or the role they played in the care continuum.

It was incredibly encouraging to see so many people excited about their careers and learn of the stability and room for both personal and professional growth within the field of assisted living. In conclusion, the CALA Spring Conference was a very informative event that helped facilitate new connections for both established professionals and those looking to get involved in the field of assisted living. With Scholarships readily available, and job opportunities regularly opening, I highly encourage prospective and current students of the SF State Gerontology Program to explore the connection to CALA, apply for its Conference Scholarship, and engage its enthusiastic members in support of future careers in assisted living.