24 May CVS and McDonaldâs court older workers as new hires. Why …
Older workers are the fastest growing part of the U.S. labor force. The number of workers age 65 to 74 will be 55% higher in 2024 than in 2014, the Labor Department projects. And the projected increase for workers 75 and older is 86%.
For some senior workers, itâs about earning needed income. For others, itâs about improving oneâs lifestyle by giving of oneâs talents. Among employers, the hiring boom is partly cyclical. In a tight job market, McDonaldâs for example announced it was teaming up with AARP to recruit seniors to fill 250,000 openings this summer. But companies also see it as a long-term shift in their employment base. For many, age diversity in the workforce helps them cater to older customers as well as young ones.
A bias against maturity persists, as some prominent age-discrimination lawsuits attest. Still, opportunities are growing for people like Darneese Carnes, who hit a mental low point after losing her job in her mid-50s. Now, after help from a nonprofit called Operation Able, sheâs happy in a job for Bostonâs iconic duck-boat tours. âI love driving!â she says. âI love people.â
Darneese Carnes was in a bad mental place three years ago. In October, she was fired from her job at a group home in suburban Boston, especially tough for a woman in her mid-50s with few job prospects. The next month, her sister died. Her brother-in-law, a trucker, was so worried about her he took her along for two months while he made his runs.
Back home, she ran across a flyer from Operation Able, a Boston nonprofit aimed at getting people, especially older people, back into the workforce through training and job placement. She did so well there, the nonprofit itself hired her. âOperation Able really did save my life,â she says.
Since then, Ms. Carnes has moved to Boston Duck Tours, which offers land-water tours of the city, and drives its iconic duck boats. âI love driving!â she says. âI love people.â
A funny thing is happening on the way to Americaâs aging crisis, which is expected to strain government resources and could well drag down economic growth. Increasingly, senior employees are staying in the workforce, either holding onto their jobs long beyond traditional retirement or returning to work after retirement. And companies, which once tried to push seniors out the door, are waking up to the potential value that they offer.
âThere seems to be more understanding about the characteristics, the value that older people bring to workplaces,â says Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging.
More than 800 employers have signed AARPâs pledge to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age. In 2018, the number of firms making the pledge grew 72%; this year, the Washington-based senior advocacy group expects another hefty increase.
âAge is now a new flavor of diversity,â says Tim Driver, CEO of Age Friendly Ventures, which operates RetirementJobs.com and other job websites for senior workers.
âThis is not temporaryâ
Companies are getting increasing recognition for their efforts to attract older workers. Last year, job website Glassdoor highlighted 12 employers hiring workers over 50, including KPMG, Bucknell University, and General Mills. Also in 2018, Columbia Universityâs aging center awarded 13 New York City area businesses for being âage smart,â including utility National Grid, high-end piano manufacturer Steinway, and the Bronx Zoo, whose 2,400-member workforce ranged in age from 16 to 91. Â Â
Part of firmsâ interest in older workers is cyclical. With the unemployment rate at a 50-year low, businesses are desperate for workers.
Just last month, McDonaldâs announced it was teaming up with AARP to recruit seniors to fill 250,000 openings this summer.
But once the next downturn hits, the focus on older workers will continue, experts predict.
âI can assure you this is not temporary,â says Glassdoorâs chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain. âThis is a long-term shift that has been going on for years.â
The reason is demographics. With longer and healthier life spans, seniors are staying in the workforce â sometimes because theyâre worried about running out of money, sometimes because theyâre worried about getting bored. Older workers are the fastest growing part of the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It projects that between 2014 and 2024 the number of workers age 65 to 74 will rise 55% and those 75 and older will increase 86%. By 2024, a quarter of all workers will be 55 or older.
The shift isnât enough to fully counteract the economic challenges that many expect from an aging society, says Mr. Chamberlain. But having more workers working longer will help. And all those workers are also consumers.
Take CVS Health, the nationâs largest retail pharmacy chain. Under its Talent is Ageless program, it has tried to attract older workers by making the workplace more friendly: increased lighting, carpeted floors, color-coded signage, and increased font sizes on its shelves. It has also come up with creative schedules to accommodate seniors, such as telecommuting, flextime, job sharing, and compressed workweeks so that someone can work four 10-hour days rather than a five-day schedule. In the early 1990s, 7% of its employees were 50 and over; today, itâs 24%.
âWeâve been focused on recruiting and working with mature workers for more than 20 years because we recognize that hiring mature workers makes good business sense for our company,â says David Casey, the chainâs vice president of workforce strategies and chief diversity officer, in a statement to the Monitor. âAs we see the Baby Boomer generation age, having staff in our store that can personally relate to these customers â our fastest growing customer base â is a differentiator for us.â
That same dynamic is present in caregiving jobs for the elderly. Hospitals and senior care homes are a popular landing spot for older workers.
âWe talk about recruiting every day,â says Tim Reilly, vice president of associate experience at Benchmark Senior Living in Waltham, Massachusetts. The company, which has some 60 facilities spread across the Northeast, started working with Age Friendly Ventures last year so that it could recruit more senior workers.
âI have never felt as content in my life as I have working here,â says Esta Avasalu, a septuagenarian and program assistant at Evans Park, one of Benchmarkâs assisted living facilities in suburban Boston. âI can empathize with what people are going through. It takes me a month to clean my place instead of two daysâ like it used to.