An Aging workforce works, but produces differently when permitted to flourish. Older Americans are choosing to remain in the workforce longer than ever before. In 2017, pre-coronavirus pandemic, a projected 42.1 million workers over age 55 were expected to be in the labor force by 2026. However, the aging workforce may be in jeopardy. Due to the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, more workers over 55 are unemployed than their younger counterparts. This is the first time in 50 years.
And it may get worse before it gets better: 61% of the aging workers said they fear they could lose their jobs during 2021, according to a recent AARP survey. An endemic bias against the aging workforce may be a contributing factor, the survey found. Two out of three people over age 45 have experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according to a separate AARP study.
This bias against the aging workforce has a lot to do with how older Americans are represented. This includes by the the media, said David Gittins, executive director of the nonprofit Age Inclusion in Media. Stereotypes we see on television and in movies portray people over age 50 as just waiting for retirement. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The aging workforce has a desire to stay healthy and active! This includes remaining on the job well past their retirement age. Undeniably, many older Americans cannot afford to retire. This also contributes to the aging workforce – the average 56- to 61-year-old has savings of just $163,577. This, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Most older people are productive and passionate about their work. In addition, they have a vast pool of knowledge to share with younger workers. For these reasons, it is critical for employers to consider the value of the aging workforce. After all, this trend isn’t likely to change. Nearly a quarter of older Americans said they have no plans to retire at all. In fact, 63% of Americans age 60-64, and 40% of those age 65-69 still work.
Despite this, research shows there is an “age bias” in the workplace. That bias makes it more likely for older employees to be among the first to be laid off when companies cut jobs. However, employers can change that by being champions for inclusiveness for an aging workforce. Employers should have a plan to help older employees make the most of their time on the job. Offering continuing education and workplace wellness programs can help improve the aging workforce’s quality of life. Mentorship programs can also benefit an organization. With mentoring, an aging workforce can serve as guides for younger workers. This also helps younger workers to move up the ranks.
Of course, employers should also be cognizant of helping the aging workforce transition to retirement. Eventually everyone hopes to retire. This is best accomplished without laying-off anyone. Such layoffs can send an unintended message that someone has overstayed their usefulness. Everyone deserves to retire with dignity. Hopefully this can occur at the pace upon which employee and employer agree.
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