Are you prepared to make a difference?

Posted by: Nikki Buckelew

Are you prepared to make a difference?


I have noticed a trend in the conversations I have been having lately with people who are interested in working in the senior real estate niche.

“I want to make a difference.”

Many of my conversations are with seasoned real estate agents and other professionals who are looking for a way to add more meaning to their lives through their work. Some have recently been tasked with helping their own aging parents with a move while others find themselves working with seniors from their community as a result of referrals from their inner circle.

“I just seem to be drawn to older people.”

This is a common statement from those who I speak with. It’s no surprise either. The Universe has a way of aligning us with the right relationships, opportunities, and situations to prepare us for our purpose...our life’s work.

Looking back at my own life it was no coincidence that I went into the aging services field. Being from a small town with a big extended family, from a young age I was surrounded by elders who mentored me, supported me, and disciplined me. My grandparents were very much a part of my every day life as were great grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and church leaders.

In high school one of my all time favorite extra-curricular activities was the Secret Grandparents Program through our FHA (Future Homemakers of America) organization (now FCCLA). My part time job in high school was at the local pharmacy where I interacted daily with older adults in both the store as well as delivering prescriptions to the homebound and the local nursing home.

In college I landed in a gerontology class that was convenient for my schedule and didn’t even know what the word “gerontology” meant. It was by far my favorite class.

So many ways to make a difference

We all evolve and change through the years and I believe that we are ALWAYS making a difference even if we don’t realize it. But the truth is, when we start to feel that tug, that inner whisper, that core desire to impact lives in a bigger and more meaningful way, we can’t ignore it.

Real estate has been a great career for me. I got licensed at age 20 and have been selling ever since. There was one short detour, however, that changed my life forever. God only knew why I had that tug to go back to college and get a degree. It certainly wasn’t MY idea to be sure! But I did. Not only one, but two. It was that detour along the path that was so masterfully sculpted that led to two amazing things in my life - one personal and one professional.

My two magnificent life changing gifts

The first gift was the gift of our daughter. Had I not listened to that inner voice telling me to go back to school and get my masters, I would not have had the opportunity to meet the most beautiful 7 year old who would later become our daughter. Gerontology led to psychology which led to counseling which led to a beautiful and blessed daughter (and since then two gorgeous and brilliant grandchildren).

Not long after adopting Dakota, my inner whisper said, “Your work here is done and it’s time to go back to real estate.” Seriously...looking back it was almost that clear. It seemed like the only reason for me to be in the counseling field was to find Dakota.

But it wasn’t. There was one more reason. During the time I counseled (about 3 years part time) I worked with kids in foster care, drug and alcohol abusers, and the elderly. Odd mixture to be sure. The one that continued to speak to me though was the elderly - the oldest of old.

Making a difference in real estate

I knew that there was no way I could sell real estate if I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. (By the way, the truly successful real estate agents DO make a difference and they seek to do so with every client).

That is when our seniors division came to life. The vision was clear. We could be the advocates, the guides, the trusted advisors for those who were making the last move of their life. And so it began - our mission. A mission born from what seemed like an extreme detour at the time became clear.

Of course, as always, a force much greater than me knew best. It wasn’t long after we had created our seniors niche that we were called upon to help both my grandfather and Chris’s grandmother with moves from long-time cherished homes into assisted living. Not only did we learn many professional lessons, these experiences gave us first hand knowledge of the emotional roller coaster that our client’s family members are riding.

The Inner Whisper says, “Do it bigger”

We have been on what feels like yet another detour. Chris and I both moved away from our seniors business and journeyed along the leadership path for a while with roads leading to coaching, training, and corporate jobs. Who knew that this detour was yet again preparation for things to come. 

This year our new mission is to make a difference in the lives of both seniors AND the professionals who serve them. We know that in the coming years there are millions of aging adults who will need the capable and loving guidance of real estate professionals as they navigate the physical and emotional complexities of a late in life move. For many, it will be their last move and for most it will be done in preparation for their final years.

Over the years during both our careers and our detours we have been preparing for this. Correction - we have been preparing for it our whole lives.

Leaving a Legacy

Giving someone the gifts of dignity and respect in their last years is powerful. I feel as though I have been preparing for this job my whole life and now I get the gift of helping others do the same. Synchronicity is evident with the right people and the right opportunities presenting themselves daily making this mission a reality.

We are totally blessed.



Nikki Buckelew is the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation. A veteran REALTOR® of over two decades, she holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As a professional speaker, coach, and trainer, Nikki is committed to empowering, equipping, and educating real estate sales and senior housing professionals seeking to better serve the mature market segment. 

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