The Changing Face of the Workforce

Though an illegal practice, ageism is still very much alive in the workplace. Most job applicants over 50 report that they feel a strong bias against them with hiring managers. 

People have all kinds of outdated assumptions about older adults that are not proven. It's time to let them go. Older employees are thought to be more likely to take time off due to health issues and less dependable as well as many other assumptions that have been proven inaccurate in a study by researchers Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott from the London School of Economics. 

Gratton and Scott's findings indicate a radically different reality, as enumerated in their book: The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. They found older workers to be very reliable, dependable and often more loyal than younger employees. Many are now technologically savvy, overturning another prejudice held against employees over 50, and most of those who aren't are willing to learn and get up to speed if given the opportunity.    

Gratton and Scott surveyed over 10,000 people ages 24 to 80 around the globe, and found that technological advancements and increased longevity have combined to transform the traditional outlook of the adult life span, which included three distinct phases, full time education, full time employment and full time retirement, into a new multistage life view with opportunities to participate in a few of these activities simultaneously. 

They found that 60% of workers are staying up to date in their field through continuing education and training. Older individuals are equally engaged and excited about their work, and are not slowing down. In fact, the younger age group reported significantly more interest in slowing down their life pace than the older group.

For those who would like to go back to school, funding is often an issue. Grants help nonprofit organizations or small businesses provide programming for continuing adult education and workforce training and  individual grants for artists, and grants to re-enter the workforce go directly to the older adult.

If you are seeking a new employee, keep an open mind.  Age is much less relevant than your candidates' experience, the degree to which they have kept up with technological and professional changes, their work ethic and their attitude to new challenges.  Workforce development programs help older individuals go back into the workforce and get the training they need.  

The US. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the employment-population ratio of persons 65 and over has risen from approximately 12% in the mid-1990s to over 19% in 2017 – 2018.  

According to the BLS, about 40 percent of people ages 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014. By 2024, BLS projects about 41 million people in the workforce will be ages 55 and older—with 13 million expected to be ages 65 and older.  Many workers realize they can't afford to stop working and need to supplement their fixed social security income with job earnings in order to manage financially.  

U.S. Labor fores shares by age

Better health, increased longevity, and changes to Social Security benefits and employee retirement plans based on the economic realities they find themselves in post the 2008 economic recession and slow economic comeback, all contribute to people retiring later in life than in previous generations. Financial advisors recommend people continue working until at least 70 to get higher social security benefits than they would if they start taking their benefits earlier.

In addition, many people who take early retirement, report enjoying work too much to give it up or feeling bored by retirement. GrantWatch's inception came after an early retirement from a 30+ year teaching career.  According to Libby Hikind, "About nine months after retirement and taking artist classes, I got a "second wind" and GrantWatch was born." While the CEO of GrantWatch makes this joke, in her post retirement era, Libby created a multi service network of websites that help all facets of the nonprofit and small business community that are taken very seriously in the fundraising world.  

More and more mature people are continuing to change and grow, looking at this new phase of life as an adventure, setting new goals and gaining new, invigorated purpose. They're applying for higher positions, starting new businesses, becoming freelancers, retraining and changing careers, taking time off to travel then going back into the workforce. 

People with higher positions, those who are self-employed, or conversely, those who can't afford to retire due to economic concerns are all continuing to work well past the traditional retirement age or are going back to work after having officially retired from their careers. 

About the Author: The author is a staff writer for GrantWatch.

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