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Older Workers

Learn about effective strategies that help older workers stay on the job. 

Older workers offer organizations significant experience and expertise, as well as insight into a rapidly growing customer base. With their broad experience, they can also serve as mentors to younger workers. Many older workers feel less pressure to “climb the ladder,” so they can offer support without competition (PDF). In addition, retaining your workers as they age offers a stop-gap measure to the ongoing labor shortage. 

A number of strategies can greatly assist in retaining the talents of older workers, who may develop disabilities as they age, or attracting older employees to your organization. Workplace flexibility is key to retention of older workers, along with reasonable accommodation and Return to Work processes. For example:

  • Part-time positions: Many older workers want to continue working, but would prefer to do so on a part-time basis. Similarly, job sharing, which splits a full-time position into two part-time positions, allows valued employees to work part-time. The company benefits from both workers’ skill sets.
  • Temporary positions: Temporary replacement workers are needed periodically during vacation time, to cover for employees on Family and Medical Leave Act leave, or special projects. Companies benefit from hiring from their pool of retirees, because these former employees are well acquainted with the company’s business practices, and do not usually need training to fill a temporary position.
  • Seasonal positions: Some older workers prefer to work only at certain times of year, or at different locations depending on the time of year. Older workers who migrate to other states for the winter months benefit from seasonal hiring programs at places like Disney in Florida, who offers both full- and part-time position options.
  • Snowbird programs: Snowbird programs employees shuttle between two locations seasonally. These programs appeal to older workers who seek warmer climates in the winter months and cooler climates in the summer. Retail and heath care service employers especially benefit, because customer base also migrates from north to south in the winter months. Companies with active snowbird programs include CVS, Home Depot and Bright Horizons.
  • Transportation assistance: Many older workers no longer drive, or only drive in certain weather at certain times of the day. These workers may need assistance in getting to and from work. Some employers help older workers arrange transportation to and from work, or access public transportation or other resources, like carpooling with colleagues. The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center has helped many older workers find transportation to and from work.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers a range of resources related to employees who are aging. JAN offers important information on accommodating employees with age-related disabilities, such as arthritis and cognitive impairment. Accommodations and solutions may differ from those for younger workers with similar disabilities and needs. The SHRM Foundation also offers information on best practices for retaining older workers as well as industry-specific guides

For additional information, visit the website of Boston College’s Center on Aging & Work, which provides information on a number of innovative practices and a series of research reports on older workers. 

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