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In a recent conversation with a 60-something-year-old, the notion of retirement came up. The response was simply, “I will probably have to work until I take my last breath.”
The time has gone when many folks can look forward to a big party, a watch and a life of travel and relaxation in retirement. Most folks approaching what used to be retirement age in the mid-60s are revising their future plans.
There are many reasons times have changed:
Both good news and bad news is in this emerging trend. Many seniors will continue to work into their 60s, 70s, and 80s, which will mean fewer job promotions and less entry-level positions for the younger workers.
Conversely, employers that learn to tap into this vital source of experienced workers – and, equally important, learn to accommodate whatever special considerations aging employees may require in order to continue their productivity – will be well ahead of the game in the coming years.
Myths of the older workforce
Although the changes mentioned above are evident, some perceptions about older workers are simply not true. In fact, these workers bring much strength to any organization. A few of these attributes are confirmed by research as follows:
There is little evidence in research linking age and negative job performance. In fact, workers 55 and older were found to take fewer sick days. They were more loyal to their employers than employees 40 and under. And, finally, research shows that the health-care cost for the final two years of life is less when people live longer.
One of my favorite predictions is that by 2050, middle age will be 75 to 78!
Benefits of keeping older workers working
Harriet Hankin, author of The New Workforce, offers characteristics that provide some significant insights into older workers and what they might mean to organizations and planning for the future:
It is obvious that the aging population will provide some challenges and opportunities far beyond pensions and gold watches. Hankin concludes that they will be a viable and vital constituency of the workforce.
The challenges will be to find creative ways to make sure these individuals are nurtured for their wisdom, experience, special skills and knowledge and work ethic in our organizations.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am one of these senior workers. Having made a brief argument for the older worker, I must add that organizations will do well to rethink how to revere and fully use every employee in every age group.