The Benefits of Aging in Place–at Work!

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Baby Boomers are, on the whole, looking to retire later in life than previous generations. Why? There are several reasons.

Why Baby Boomers Are Retiring Later

  • Life expectancy for persons born between 1946 and 1964 (the Baby Boomer timeframe) is climbing, meaning people are healthier and more energetic at advanced ages, too.
  • The retirement age has been raised, so more seniors are working into their later sixties and beyond to qualify for full Social Security benefits (Full retirement age will be 67 under Social Security in the year 2020).
  • The longer a person waits beyond full retirement age to claim benefits, the larger the monthly Social Security payments will be.
  • According to a 2014 Transamerica Retirement Survey, about 36% of Baby Boomers foresee Social Security as the the mainstay of their retirement income and thus worth waiting for.
  • Tough economic realities are setting in. Most Baby Boomer do not have enough savings and investments to see them through what is increasingly looking like a greater number of older years.
  • They want to stay useful and active

According to the Transamerica Retirement Survey, approximately 65% of Baby Boomers plan to work beyond retirement age. What does this plan to “age in place at work” mean for employees and employers?

There are many benefits to older workers who “age in place” on the job. Here are a few significant ones:

Benefits to Older Workers

  • Continued income
  • Continued employer contributions to Social Security and 401K plans
  • Higher delayed Social Security benefits
  • Continued health care benefits
  • Staying sharp. A 2012 National Healthy Worksite report cited a study showing that people who retire early decline in cognitive abilities
  • A sense of objective value, meaning that one’s skills, knowledge and energy are still needed and wanted

Seniors seem to understand these benefits very well because more of them are “aging in place” on the job – and on a full time basis. According to the National Healthy Worksite brief or report, older workers (defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as those who are 55 or older) underwent an employment sea change in the mid-1990s. Prior to 1995, majorities of older workers switched to part-time rather than fulltime work to ease themselves out of the workforce and into retirement. Now about 77% of older workers stay on the job fulltime.

Most employers like and respect older workers. They particularly value their job-related knowledge and expertise. Employers receive many benefits from keeping their older workers on the job.

What are some benefits to employers from older workers who age in place on the job? According to the Healthy Worksite brief, there are several outstanding benefits.

Benefits to Employers of Old Workers

  • Older workers have fewer injuries than younger workers. Presumably, the older a person gets, the more cautious and mindful he or she is and better able to foresee the potential for injury and to take steps to avoid them.
  • A 65-year-old who takes good care of himself or herself and who has few health risk factors costs an employer less in medical outlay than a middle-aged person who has just a medium range of health risk factors.
  • Older workers have greater knowledge of their jobs and, often, of the company’s history and culture. They are keepers of the company’s knowledge base or the “institutional knowledge.”
  • Older workers can have a positive impact on productivity through a lifelong, well-developed work ethic and the care they take to learn how to do things well and efficiently.

The employment portrait of older workers has its downside, too, which is particularly noticeable in the health care costs for older workers.

For example, even though they have fewer injuries than younger workers, older workers tend to sustain more serious injuries when they are hurt on the job. Their recovery times last longer, too.

However, there are inexpensive and viable solutions to keeping older workers in good health and condition. The Healthy Worksite report notes that employer-initiated health care education on the work site is beneficial, especially in view of the controllable lifestyle risk factors, which are more important than mere youth. Reducing absenteeism is related to productivity, and encouraging older workers to take good care of themselves helps keep illness at bay.

Some companies find that inexpensive workplace upgrades make a big difference in accommodating older workers and keeping them productive. The Healthy Worksite report notes that some simple upgrades at BMW, such as letting workers stand on wood platforms rather than on cement floors, boosted productivity in older employees to a point where they rivaled younger workers.

“Aging-in-place-at-work” benefits employee and employer. When older workers are properly valued and accommodated, productivity rises, as do the older workers’ financial prospects for retirement. It is a concept worth pursuing.

 

 

Sources

 Collinson, Catherine. “Baby Boomer Workers Are Revolutionizing Retirement. Are They and Their Employers Ready?” The 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey. Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies and Harris Poll, December 2014. Available online at:

http://www.transamericacenter.org/docs/default-source/resources/center-research/tcrs2014_sr_baby_-boomers_and_employers.pdf.

National Healthy Worksite, Issue Brief No. 1: Older Employees in the Workplace. Available online at

http://www.cdc.gov/nationalhealthyworksite/docs/Issue_Brief_No_1_Older_Employees_in_the_Workplace_7-12-2012_FINAL%28508%29.pdf

Rohwedder, S., Willis, R.J. Mental retirement. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2010: 24(1): pp. 119-138.