Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate

Employment figures remain grim in the United States with one striking exception: Greater numbers of people 55 and older are in the workforce, the highest percentage in 30 years.

The percentage of middle-aged and younger workers is down since the recession stared in December, 2007, but for older workers employment is up. For men 55 and older it rose from 45.4 percent in December 2007 to 46.2 percent in June 2011. For women age 55 and older, it went from 33.7 percent to 34.6 percent.

This is precisely the opposite of what economists and employment experts predicted. They foresaw waves of baby boomers abandoning their jobs for the bliss of retirement, a mass exodus of skills and experience. But a fragile economy, the failure to save enough money to live on in retirement and interest by individuals in continuing productive and enjoyable careers combined with a rising average life span means workers are staying put a lot longer than anyone expected.

Organizations have smartened up about keeping older workers around. They are reliable and productive, with institutional knowledge and experience. According to a Boston College study, older workers are less likely to be laid off than their younger colleagues. But when they do get a pink slip, workers age 62 and over have a harder time finding new employment than their colleagues age 34 and under. Many laid-off employees close to retirement age simply give up. They call themselves “retired” when the truth is that they are unemployed, and would rather be working.

Many believe that young adults and teenagers are having trouble finding jobs because older workers are sticking around and not freeing up jobs down the line by retiring. This turns out to be false. Teens are displaced by college graduates, who are accepting jobs that were previously filled by high school students and graduates. Adults in their middle to late 20s are taking the jobs college graduates used to fill. All other age groups remain employed at even rates.

The healthy trend of working past traditional retirement years is good for the individual and our economy all around. Older workers remain healthier and they are better educated than previous generations of seniors in the workplace. They are also much more likely to be sitting at a computer instead of working on an assembly line. They have fewer health problems.

Workers who delay retirement can let their retirement savings compound longer and grow. They also delay drawing Social Security benefits. Waiting to file until the age of 66 increases your check by at least one-third when compared to taking Society Security at age 62. Your check increases by 75 percent if you wait until age 70. This phenomenon is good news for the American government and the taxpayers, reducing cost projections of this massive entitlement program.

Aging workers who have the experience, skills and education will remain employable. Chief executive officers, attorneys, physicians, and similar high skill professions remain in demand and remain extremely well paid. It is critical for older workers to remain current and refresh their skills to remain valuable in the workplace and to avoid being perceived as “old school” or “out of touch.”

Among the advice given to workers age 50 and up to boost their chances of staying in the workforce:

  • Always keep learning. Attend seminars, conferences and adult classes.
  • Make friends of all ages and expose yourself to the popular culture and company of younger generations.
  • Keep your look fresh and modern. An up-to-date hairstyle works wonders. If you’re wearing clothing older than your co-workers, time to update your wardrobe.
  • Understand technology’s latest and greatest.
  • Upgrade your phone, computer, and software.
  • Learn to text and IM and love it.
  • Create an online presence. Participate in social media and blogging. Expertise and wit is valued online without regard to age.
  • Become a mentor. Teaching and interacting with the next generation exposes you to younger ways of thinking and looking at the world.
  • Consider an encore career, one in which fulfilling work is more important than the rate of pay.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

NEXT WEEK:Puzzles To Remember

Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is President and CEO of At Your Home Familycare in San Diego, California. Read more  LifeCycles in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow At Your Home Familycare on Facebook and on Twitter @AYHFamilycare.
Copyright © 2011 by At Your Home Familycare


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