Our Aging Population and the Workplace

Thelisa LavergneThe month of May has been classified as Older Americans Month, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. So, who are the older workers? By 2030, people 65 years and older will outnumber children in the United States – for the first time in history. This is a huge implication for the future of work and for people’s capacity to retire in their mid-60s. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the percentage of older workers has been steadily increasing between 2011 and 2018, while in Europe, sources indicate that the working-age population may soon be outnumbered by citizens old enough to retire.

The change in the age of the workforce changes the dynamics of our workplace and labor market information. By 2024, one in four U.S. workers will be 55 or older, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than double the rate in 1994 when 55-plus workers accounted for just 12 percent of the workforce.

The traditional concept of the retiree has changed drastically and continues to change as our working population ages. Older workers are remaining in the workplace for several reasons: first, workers are forced to remain in the workplace for financial reasons, second, workers want to continue working to stay active and engaged in life, and lastly, workers are discovering they can provide valuable experience and expertise in the workplace.

The older workers are readily available to continue working; however, the workforce has yet to embrace the value of the older worker in the workforce. A survey of human resource professionals by the Society of Human Resource Management in 2016, revealed a short-term mindset along with a lack of urgency among employers in assessing and planning for an aging workforce. The majority of companies surveyed, stated they do not actively recruit older workers. Age discrimination is real and alive.

There is good news! As the labor pool tightens, companies will be forced to reevaluate their hiring process, their recruiting efforts, and their ability to create a multi-culturally diverse workforce. Leading-edge employers are starting the dialogue about providing alternative career options for older workers such as offering assignments and schedules, creating opportunities for them to mentor young workers, and phased out retirement.

There are strategies for those looking to secure a job, change careers, or stay competitive in their current workplace…

  • Never stop learning.
  • Consider becoming a mentor, share your expertise.
  • Volunteer your time with an organization that needs your skills.
  • Research companies that are culturally friendly toward older workers.
  • Stay informed and knowledgeable about the changes and trends in the workforce.
  • Develop a job search plan – Workforce Solutions provides pieces of training on developing a Targeted Plan that assists job seekers in creating a plan specific to their skills, abilities, and knowledge.

Older workers who have been in the workforce for a length of time, have the ability to build a skill set that can’t be duplicated by less experienced and younger co-workers. Older workers have an advantage, they generally possess one of the most desired soft skills, “emotional intelligence” by employers.

Thelisa Lavergne is a member of the Regional (Texas Gulf Coast) Navigator team for Workforce Solutions. She specializes in providing training and education to the Gulf Coast community, career staff offices, and employers in assisting individuals with disabilities. She brings with her over 10 years of experience and expertise working in the nonprofit industry serving Houston’s disadvantaged community; individuals and families experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic abuse, and individuals and families experiencing hunger. However, her greatest contribution to Workforce Solutions is her compassion, commitment, and dedication to serving others. She holds a M.A. in Organizational Management, a B.S. in Training and Development, B.S. in Counseling, and a Certification as a Personal Fitness Trainer.



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