Myths and Facts About Older Workers
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Myths and Facts About Older Workers

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National Employ Older Workers Week is Sept. 22-28. The Department of Labor estimates that by 2014, 41% of Americans aged 55+ will be employed, making up over 21% of the U.S. labor force.

Here we set the record straight about common myths related to older workers and their contributions to the workforce.

Myth: The economic downturn hasn’t hurt older workers that much compared to other age groups.

Fact: The economic downturn that began in 2008 affected older workers’ savings as well as their employment prospects.
In 2012, over 3.5 million Americans—about 1 in 10 Americans aged 55+ who had yet to retire—were either working part-time instead of full-time because of economic reasons, were unemployed and actively looking for employment, or had stopped looking for employment due to discouragement.

Moreover, older workers tend to experience longer unemployment than their younger counterparts. In 2012, adults aged 55-64, on average, were unemployed for 54.6 weeks, compared to 36.4 weeks for workers aged 25-34. The lack of jobs for those older Americans cost the United States some $245 billion in lost output. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Myth: Older adults only stay in the workforce because they need the money.

Fact: The 2013 United States of Aging survey from NCOA, UnitedHealthcare, and USA Today found that older adults aged 60+ choose to remain in the workforce for many reasons, but the biggest is to stay active and productive (69%). Two-thirds of survey respondents said they enjoyed their work, 62% stated that they needed the money, and more than half said that working gave them a sense of purpose and allowed them to stay connected to other people.

Myth: Older workers have high turnover rates.

Fact: Older workers are less likely to jump from job to job compared to younger workers, and their reduced turnover also may help to lower employers’ expenses. A Workforce Retention Survey from the American Psychological Association found that workers aged 55+ were more likely than any other age group to say that they intended to remain in their current jobs because they enjoyed their work and the job offered a good work-life balance. 

Myth: There aren’t a lot of opportunities available for older workers who’ve lost their jobs and don’t have updated skills/training.

Fact: There are numerous opportunities for older adults who seek to update their skills and training.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) provides on-the-job skills training to individuals aged 55+ with limited financial resources. Since its inception, SCSEP has helped over one million older Americans enter the workforce. Last year alone, NCOA’s SCSEP offices provided job training and assistance to over 4,300 older adults, who contributed 2.4 million hours of service in community nonprofits.

NCOA’s JobSource is an online tool that can help older workers define their skills, seek training, and search for jobs.

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