Lydia Terjeson Finds Business and Hospitality Skills the Perfect Package for Senior Living Career Path

By Sue McMurray

While studying hospitality business management in the WSU Carson College of Business, Lydia Terjeson (’17 HBM) was struck by the appeal of a career in the senior living industry, where she could create lasting relationships with clients. An opportunity to attend the California Assisted Living Association Conference her senior year, and work experience in private resorts and clubs after graduation, confirmed her growing passion.

A job offer in 2018 launched her career as an executive associate in Touchmark’s executive development program, a position that aligns perfectly with her hospitality training.

“A senior-living community is like a full-service resort in many ways,” she says. “There are dining services, social activities, housekeeping, and attentive staff to take care of everything you expect to find at a resort—everything I learned about in my hospitality classes. The only difference is the length of stay, of course, is a lot longer than that of a traditional resort.”

Direct application of skills

Terjeson says the combination of business and hospitality packaged in one degree provided a great background for making business decisions and running day-to-day operations. Because she’s part of Touchmark’s executive development program, she works in every department and draws on her diverse skillset.

“I have used food-cost percentages when working in the dining services department, and accounting and labor economic principles while working in the business office,” she says. “I use service-recovery tactics almost daily.”

Why she loves it

“There are so many great things about working in senior living,” says Terjeson. “Every day brings unique challenges and new things to learn. Walking into work and having residents and staff know your name and say good morning is a great way to start the day and feel valued. Fostering relationships, having fun, and creating shared memories are cornerstones of my day-to-day job.”

At Touchmark, residents go indoor skydiving and zip lining, take wine tasting tours, and travel for day and overnight trips. The residents show her every day that age is just a number, and that senior living means living life to the fullest, says Terjeson.

To those considering a career in senior living, she advises to learn as much as possible about the industry and seek opportunities to work in senior environments, whether it be serving in the dining room of a senior-living community, volunteering at a senior center, or even spending time with grandparents.

“Senior living is all about providing a full range of life-enriching services to older adults,” says Terjeson. “The lifestyle offered in retirement communities attracts compassionate, fun-loving, and hospitable people. Working with like-minded individuals to make a difference in the lives of older adults is very fulfilling, which makes it fun to come to work each day.”