According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 40% of people age 55 and over were working or looking for work in 2014. The labor force participation rate for seniors is expected to increase to around 164 million individuals by 2024. In 2016, over 42% of workers age 55 and over were in management, professional, and related occupations. According to one report, entrepreneurship amongst seniors aged 55-64 increased from 15% in 1996 to 26% in 2017.
The multitude of baby-boomers aging are one reason that there are more elders in the workforce. Other factors are better health and longer lives, the financial need to work longer, and changes to Social Security and pension benefits. And many folks find being idle in retirement doesn’t add to their quality of life, compelling a return to the work force.
Some barriers that seniors might face in seeking employment are the standard stereotypes – that seniors are unwilling to learn new things and their skills aren’t up-to-date. However, many organizations around the country are working hard to dispel these myths. A Colorado group, Changing The Narrative, seeks to end ageism and encourage employers to change their attitudes regarding senior employees. They are sponsoring a campaign from October 25 through November 3 around the country to encourage people from all generations to gather in their own neighborhoods to have a conversation about ageism and how we all can challenge ageist assumptions.
AARP has an Employer Pledge Program that includes an action plan for building an age-inclusive workforce. The program is a way for companies to recognize their commitment to value workers of all ages. Participants can use the official seal of the program on their recruitment materials and website, and may receive discounts on job postings on the AARP job board. Some participating companies include ZipRecruiter, H&R Block, CVS, AT&T, and Ace Hardware.
The Global Coalition on Aging has promulgated their Guiding Principles for Age-Friendly Businesses to help serve as a guide for companies, to facilitate being more inclusive. They suggest employers:
- Recognize the potential valuable contribution of employees of any age;
- Aim to develop working environments that are accessible to folks of all ages;
- Seek to develop a work culture that is appreciative of all employees;
- Endeavor to create a work environment that encourages life-long growth and development;
- Inspire all employees to live a healthy and active lifestyle; and
- Be understanding of employees’ caregiving commitments.
Obviously, just because someone reaches retirement age doesn’t mean that they stop being an asset to a company or project. In fact, seniors presumably have more experience and valuable feedback than their younger counterparts. And oftentimes, seniors are more reliable than those in their youth.
Finding that right fit can be difficult for anyone. So, what are some tips for seniors looking for work?
- Focus one’s efforts on companies who value experienced workers;
- Try a website dedicated to finding jobs for seniors;
- Create a LinkedIn account;
- Network, network, network;
- Brush up on computer skills;
- Splurge and hire a professional resume writer; or
- Volunteer at a non-profit. Once a position becomes available, there’s already a foot in the door.
Or, if a senior can’t find a traditional job, he or she could start their own business. Like to garden? Open a flower shop. Like to be fit? Start a dog walking business. A senior can turn a hobby like woodworking or quilting into a for-profit enterprise.
As our society strives to shake off old-fashioned concepts and biases towards those of different races, ethnicities, sexes, and genders, let’s not forget to add ages to the list. What someone can bring to the table in the workforce is not based on what one can see on the outside – it should be based on the value that person can bring from what they harbor on the inside. And in the case of seniors, that is oftentimes a lifetime worth of valuable experience and life lessons.