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    January 29, 2024

    Career Paths & Older Workers

    For the first time, more than 25% of the U.S. workforce is over 55 years old. Roughly one in five Americans ages 65 and older (19%) were employed in 2023 – nearly double the number of those who were working 35 years ago. These numbers are only expected to increase over the next 10 years. Many companies are focused on younger talent but should also recognize the opportunity to support a stronger bottom line by having a focus on more mature employees in their workforce.

    Part of the reason for not valuing older workers is the ageism bias. Though we are all living longer, we tend to still think of people retiring at 60 or 65. Many of the images we see in the media around older people are that they are all more vulnerable, not as tech savvy, not able to adapt to change or other myths around aging. The research for workers 50 to 70 shows just the opposite.

    Older Workers and Technology
    AARP data of people between 50 and 70 shows that most of them use technology in many of the same ways as younger adults: 92% of them text. 70% of them use video chat. 78% of them use social media. And more than 90% use email.

    Before the 1990s, it was assumed that at a certain age, the brain becomes fixed and finite. It was also assumed that once mature, the brain declines steadily. New research has revealed that this is not true. Even after 70 years of age, the brain can create new neural pathways. The brain is flexible and capable of “rewiring.” Though some aging is directly related to genetics, there is research that shows that certain types of brain function improve, including integrated thinking and flexible problem-solving. Older workers often also bring the benefit of experience. This gives them the advantage of handling adversity and change in a more pragmatic way than workers who are not as experienced.

    There are also added benefits of lower turnover by employees over 50. The average tenure of employees ages 55 to 64 (9.8 years) was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 years (2.8 years). Younger employees will end up costing a company much more to recruit and retain them as well as potentially causing more stress on their teams, both when they are just starting and when they leave.

    Older employees are often not focused on climbing up the corporate ladder or moving into higher-level jobs. Many would like to contribute and feel valued without that pressure. Some also would like to be able to contribute on a part-time basis instead of leaving the company. This can reduce benefits costs, and compensation costs, and still retain the knowledge base for the company that employees may have.

    “Seniors approach decision-making and creativity with their own unique life experience, increasing the range of perspectives in the office and fostering innovation. When younger workers learn from their older colleagues, and vice versa, bridges are built and stereotypes are broken down for a thriving intergenerational workforce.” Forbes, September 2023

    What forward-thinking companies are doing:

    • Just like younger employees, most older workers want a position or work for a company that has some type of social purpose. When marketing to older potential hires, they include information about social purpose in recruiting materials.
    • They recognize that flexible schedules may be a key differentiator. Many older adults are also caregiving for aging loved ones. They need the same flexibility as parents to young children.
    • Companies that are hiring older workers should be focused more on the requirements of the job and the level instead of tenure. When an older worker is worth a higher pay rate, some companies are offering part-time hours to contain total compensation.
    • Because the number of older employees is increasing, some companies are including management training that addresses working with someone who may be older than a team leader.

    With the need to attract quality talent continuing to be a challenge for most companies, a different view on the benefits of hiring and retaining older employees can be a real differentiator for your company.


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