Older Adults in the Workplace
Decades ago it was expected that when you reached age 65 retirement was the clear choice. Some even wanted to retire earlier at about age 55 if lucky enough to work where once you reached a “magic” number of your age plus a specified number of years of service you earned an early pension and retirement. These people appeared to enjoy a couple decades of easy living in early retirement, with many weeks of leisure and travel, and a fair bit of disposable income to shower on the kids and grandkids. It was expected then that we could all plan to retire at a younger age in the future — but that does not appear to be happening for several reasons.
An article at the Society for Human Resource Management website notes that in the USA 10,000 people turn 65 every day, a trend that began in 2011 and is expected to continue into 2030. At one-tenth the population that would be about 1000 Canadians daily. The American Society of Aging and Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety websites have noted that by 2020 one in every four workers will be over age 55, due to what is called the Silver Tsunami of older employees; basically, the baby boomer generation.
This aging workforce in Canada and the US creates some challenges for employers. Labour associations have already taken note of a potentially dangerous situation where the number of older people retiring is steadily increasing while creating a lack of skill diversity due to fewer younger people entering the workforce. In fact, a shortfall of skilled labour is expected in the next decade because of this. As the older generation retires, they take with them great value in the workplace, as learned in a SHRM survey where HR managers identified, “older workers as having greater work experience, knowledge and skills; greater maturity and professionalism; a stronger work ethic; being more reliable and loyal; and experiencing less turnover (SHRM, 2002).”
Many businesses have already instituted a number of programs that include incentives and enticements to retain their older staff, or added mentor programs where younger employees are matched with mature executives for knowledge and skills development. Just as many corporate employers need to recognize this gap and develop their future labour force to be more diverse in age, education and skills.
At what age should one think of retiring?
Baby Boomer older adults of the 21st century in general enjoy better health and vitality than any previous generation; one reason many choose to remain in the work force longer. Staying active means staying healthy and alive. Some people are financially stable but bored and decide to remain or return to work. Many others find they need to postpone retirement, or after retiring from full-time employment after a couple years or less find themselves returning to work just to keep up with today’s high cost of living.
More and more retirees find they do not have enough in savings and investments to remain financially sound throughout their entire life if living well into their 80’s or more. One needs to fully revisit their retirement plan to ensure it is realistic for each decade of retirement in light of today’s changing demographics and economy. Make appointments with a lawyer and financial planner to ensure your future is securely planned around your retirement if over age 50, perhaps at any age.
These shifts in society bring an assortment of needs for addressing an aging workforce. Most governments have laws protecting older workers and anyone over age 50 and still working should become fully aware of their rights; know all municipal, state/provincial and federal statutes for employment to avoid discrimination.
Business will have to revitalize succession planning and skill transition programs to keep up with human resources needs. Mentorship programs, retention strategies and more will be needed to avoid the shortfall of skilled labour predicted for the 2020’s.
Individuals will have to review their retirement and financial planning to decide the right time to step out of the workplace and leave it finally to succeeding generations. Balancing financial needs with recreational, creative and leisure activities, and a busy social life would help ensure a healthier, active aging lifestyle, thereby reducing any worry about retirement.