"We Want To Work."
A spate of recent articles in the mainstream press recognize that over half of today's retirees want to keep working. But it is really hard for most of us to find work commensurate with our experience. That's a waste of a valuable asset.
Where do you go if you want to think about post-career work? One might contact AARP, the biggest advocate for the aging population--that for better or worse defines aging to start at 50! Others are Encore and ReSource, and for accounting and advisory types, PKF O’Connor Davies. But we can't find any central source that offers ideas for everyone, everywhere to match needs and resources.
And we don't hear much about people wanting to employ retirees. The New York Times recently highlighted a few companies that have purposely found ways to engage older folks: a Huntington Ingalls Industries division in Newport News, Virginia, Silvercup Studios in New York, and Steelcase in Michigan. All have found ways to engage workers beyond the usual retirement age--which is to say the retirement age that was set in the 1950s, when male life expectancy was 68.
But it is not easy, from what we see and hear and experience, for Boomers easily to find work if they want it. Part of the issue, we think, is ageism. Negative assumptions about what older workers can and can't do, or are willing or not willing to do, are pervasive . Another issue is the fear of being stuck with an employee who can no longer function. And there is suspicion that we will take the jobs of younger people. The biggest obstacle, we think, is a complete lack of creativity in finding ways to engage older workers. Employers cannot figure out what to do with someone who too senior to be an intern, but who has no desire to run the place.
But there is an answer, and it is already in use. Many enterprises have begun to use the freelance model to engage Millennials and Gen Xrs on a project or temporal basis. The same model would be perfect for engagement of our cohort. Use us when and where you need us, for as long as we agree ahead of time, and then we go our separate ways. Or we agree to another project.
The economic arguments--both positive and negative--are powerful. Many economists are warning that our national growth rate will be substantially slowed by a workforce declining due to retirement and current immigration policies, unable to continue to fuel and sustain growth at current rates. We--the Boomers who make up almost half of the adult population--can help by providing skilled and experienced workers on a targeted basis. And we do not want to compete with our children, or to work like we did before, either. We do want to take our experience and use it to help today's workforce build on what we learned.
Giving us purposeful employment solves another problem too. There are a lot of us, and we will live for several more decades. Economists have begun to issue dark warnings that we will pull down the economy with our health needs. But if we remain engaged, and productive, we will maintain our physical and mental health--and also increase the productivity of younger workers.
We--retired and retiring Boomers--should be viewed as a national asset, not a looming liability. So employers, please abandon preconceptions and stereotypes. This is no longer in the 1950s. Today's retirees are completely different--experienced, healthy, long-lived, and enthusiastic about work. Especially we Lustre ladies. Work with us. Together, we can get to the next level much faster than if you sideline us.