Viewpoint from the Commonwealth
- Written by Alice Bonner, Secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs (Guest Contributor)
- Published: September 14, 2017
National Employ Older Workers Week
With advances in longevity, older adults are living longer than ever. For the first time since 1948, employees old enough to retire outnumber teenagers in the workforce, according to AARP. And the desire to stay engaged has never been so strong. Older workers are increasingly staying employed in the workforce and looking for their “third acts,” to stay engaged, make a difference, and finance their longer retirement years. The number of Americans age 50+ who are working or looking for work has grown significantly over the past decade, and is expected to continue to increase. More than 4.5 million Americans aged 50 to 70 are pursuing their “encore careers.”
National Employ Older Workers Week, held annually the last week of September, recognizes the vital role of older workers in the workforce. Older Workers Week aims to increase awareness of this labor segment and develop innovative strategies to tap into their potential.
At the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) focuses on the most vulnerable workers by providing on-the-job skills training for individuals 55 or older with limited financial resources, educational background, and work skills. A perfect example is shown in the story of Emma Harris:
Two years ago, Emma Harris, 66, could no longer continue to keep up with the physical demands of her cashier job and was out of work. Not having office skills, Emma enrolled in to the SCSEP program and took classes in Microsoft Office. To practice her new computer skills she was placed into on-the-job training at an organization called New Direction, a pregnancy and sexual health resource office in North Adams, Mass. There she greeted and assisted anxious young women, and also learned how to manage client database systems. After some time, Emma was offered a permanent position with New Direction and joined their dedicated team. “Emma is a delight to our clients, their families, and her co-workers,” says her supervisor.
Employers have also seen the benefits of employing older workers. Mature Caregivers, headquartered in Waltham, Mass., employs people age 50+ to care for people age 75+. A mature worker often has cared for children or their own aging parents. Professionally, they are ready for a change, to something part-time, less physically taxing and more personally rewarding. Families often appreciate a mature caregiver’s professional background – and the standards that go along with that, such as punctuality and good communication skills.