Workforce Demographics: Rethinking Retirement

Boomers must start rethinking retirement

Am I the only person who sees warehousing people over 70 in “retirement communities” as dangerous to the country and horrible for the people themselves?  Every time an employee retires, much less takes early retirement; history, perspective and people skills leave the building.  When those individuals are later incarcerated in same-age living quarters, even the younger people who would want to pick their brains are thwarted.  This problem can only grow as the retirement industry continues to lure the unsuspecting into a belief that retirement will be like living in Disney World.

Fortunately, many fewer Boomers will retire soon because they haven’t saved enough money.  That will save Boomer skills and perspective for many organizations.  However, so many who can retire do — only to find that they are bored past bearing by a lack of stimulation they can’t provide themselves.  Boomers have lived to work.  It’s been both necessity and entertainment since their twenties.  Here’s a novel idea:  Instead of discriminating against people over 70, how about actively recruiting them and making the workplace elder-friendly to boot?

What would happen if we dusted off that old feminist concept of the job share?  Why couldn’t two  70-year-olds share a job as effectively as two thirtysomethings?  They could, if a fortysomething boss could rethink his/her agenda and explain what the job really required.  Oh, you say, “These people aren’t technically competent.”  What about the local community college?  Does it discriminate against older workers?  Here’s another idea:  What about providing technical training to any person who agrees to work a job or a job share for one year?  You won’t get the twentysomethings to agree but older workers will.

You can’t see the coming worker shortage because the Great Recession has masked it.  You can’t tell who might be a terrorist in the security line at O’Hare either.  Does that mean there aren’t any?  Same logic.  The real danger in retirement is that the people who shouldn’t be allowed to retire go first.  They lived prudent lives.  That leaves the desperate who will do anything to stay on the payroll.  Are they really the role models and mentors we want for the next few generations?  The latter aren’t sold on organized America anyway.

Retirement takes away the very people needed to patiently nurture the next generation of workers.  Wouldn’t it make sense for companies to recruit at retirement communities?  After three trips to China, not to mention, Tibet, some of those residents would be interested in greater stimulation.

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Filed under Boomers, Current Research, Demographics, Workforce Demographics