Older workers offer experience

Published on Thu, Feb 13, 2003 by Marian Yunghans

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Older workers offer experience

By Marian Yunghans

Recent large corporate bankruptcies have taken their toll on the federal agency that insures the pensions of some 44 million Americans. At the end of January, the agency disclosed a deficit. Nearly 20 million Americans 65 and over rely on some extent of investment income, including pensions to meet their living expenses. Many Americans are finding themselves without the expected assets to retire and have decided to continue work. In 1998, 48 percent of retirees reported that they had no pension income of their own or from a spouse.

And just where does the senior retiree stand in the vast arena of employment? Across the USA, the age barrier is crumbling. A growing number of employees are postponing retirement and drawing paychecks, a trend driven by longer life spans, widespread labor shortages, loss of investment income and efforts by employers to lure back senior workers. Senior workers who bore the brunt of wrenching layoffs in the early 1990s ironically are now hot commodities.
There are over 16 million Americans over 55 who are either working or seeking work. Older workers are getting new jobs at an annual rate of

4.1 percent, more than double the .8 percent rate in the general population.
Although older workers make up just ten percent of the workforce, they account for 22 percent of the nation’s job growth. Many older workers are expressing a desire to remain economically active with the need to bring in more income. Mandatory retirement has been outlawed. Social Security is becoming more “age neutral,” no longer penalizing those working beyond 65.

“Companies are retaining older workers or bringing retirees back into the workforce,” states the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). “The workplace is going to look very different. With the graying of the workforce, the experience people bring to the job is going to change. Companies are experiencing a major labor shortage and they’re turning to older workers to fill that void.” Reasons older workers are in demand is that they have a reputation for being reliable, a commitment to do quality work, loyalty, solid performance and the ability to get along with co-workers. More employers are seeking out the skills that experienced older workers have. They serve as role models for younger workers and employers are seeing the value of the older worker’s skills and experience.

A new concept of “unretirement” has begun to emerge. The days of older workers put out to pasture as a cultural imperative has all but come to an end. In these changing times older workers are more often changing careers. A recent study conducted by Drake Beam Morin revealed that one in two people, regardless of age, find career transitions successful. Age is not a factor. The amount of experience an older worker brings to the table is a great advantage in making the switch. The stronger the skills and broader the knowledge base the better chance of success.

The concept of retirement as a “winding down” or “extended vacation” is obsolete. Retirement no longer means the end of work.

The majority or retirees and pre-retirees seek a new active stage of the lives characterized by continued growth, personal reinvention and new beginnings in both work and leisure. Many baby boomers say they are bored and more of them go back to work. They’re not, however, interested in the same jobs they had in the past. Almost half of newly retired are forging into a new career. Second chances. Second careers. Second lives.

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