Blog

By Gary A. Officer

It’s no secret the U.S. economy is booming creating the strongest employment market in years. Business and consumer confidence is up, as is employee satisfaction.[1] Unemployment is down to 3.7%, the lowest rate since 1969.[2] Over 209,000 formally unemployed workers are joining the labor force for each month.[3] Employers currently have 7.1 million unfilled jobs. Even if all of the 6 million people currently unemployed had all the right skills, which most do not, over a million jobs would still go unfilled.[4]

The job market pendulum has swung the job seekers’ way, but what does this mean for the millions of 50+ Americans who want to work but have faced challenges in America’s youth-oriented employment market?

At Senior Service America, we annually train thousands of older workers to reenter the workforce and advance their careers. This affords us a unique perspective and exposes emerging trends and predictions that are noteworthy for employers, cities, and older workers in 2019.

1.  The growing talent shortage will have more employers taking a look at 50+ workers

With many jobs and few qualified candidates, U.S. employers are increasingly turning to 50+ Americans. Of the 61 million[5] 50+ Americans, about a third of them (20 million[6]) are not currently working. What is compounding this is the number of young adult employees, age 18-29, is decreasing. In only 5 years, the younger employee population will sustain a decline, so employers are already looking for other talent sources.

2.  Increased training of managers to manage 50+ workers

As hiring increases, more companies are actively training their managers to manage 50+ workers.  The early movers found a generational divide between many Gen X managers and their Baby Boomer subordinates.  In fact this was satirized in the Robert DeNiro movie, The Intern.  But for employers hiring older workers, this is no laughing matter.

The upside is that with training, employers are gaining unforeseen benefits that generational diversity brings such as  the combination of emotional maturity from older workers with the new ideas of younger workers.  Another example of a training need is how younger and 50+ workers are often motivated by different things.  Where younger workers may be focused on advancement, 50+ may place more value in stability, working as part of a team, and feeling a sense of usefulness. Smart managers learn to leverage these differences to motivate not just their 50+ but all their employees.

Training helps managers overcome the tendency to subconsciously view their 50+ employees as “Mom” or “Dad” authority figures. This can result in a manager giving too much deference or feeling they must exert dominance over their 50+ subordinate.  The managers who can maintain an even keel and provide their 50+ employees with the same level dignity, respect and authority are the ones who will benefit from the dedication, experience and commitment they get in return.

3.  Entirely new, unexpected industries will look to older workers

50+ working in healthcare, retail, food service and other expected industries would not surprise most. But many unexpected industries are tapping into 50+ workers to support their growth.  For example, the security industry has embraced generational diversity in their hiring, with 50+ workers accounting for half of their new hires at some security companies.  The increased perception and emotional maturity, commonly found in older workers, are ideal for front-desk security roles required at most office buildings in America.

Other industries are affording opportunities for retired older workers to continue on a part-time basis.  A good example of this is older accountants and CPAs doing part-time work.  And emerging industries are looking to train older workers in technology and manufacturing to support their growth.

4.  Employer-driven workforce development will increase

Many industries and companies have found the traditional labor market simply cannot support their need for trained workers.  In these cases, many employers are creating “paid internships” and “train to work” programs, which allow  older workers to earn while they learn their required job skills.

Increasingly at Senior Service America, we are approached by employers and industry on how to source and architect these workforce development programs.

The best example of this is the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP).  It is the only federal program targeted to help low-income older workers. Each year, SCSEP enables thousands of 55+ workers each year to earn and learn while working in local programs serving their community.

5.  Veteran employment shifts more focus to older pre 9/11 veterans

Since the War on Terror, we’ve seen the “Sea of Goodwill” increase efforts to train and hire the post 9/11 veterans that bear the deepest scars of the current conflict.  However, this unintentionally has created a raft of available employment programs in support of older veterans, such as those that served in Desert Storm.

Driven by a need to serve greater numbers and a recognition of this unintended disparity, more veteran non-profits are shifting their focus to older veterans.  This trend will surge in 2019.

6.  Increased layoffs of 50+ workers is now a problem and an opportunity

Older workers are increasingly being forced out of their long-term employment.  A recent study found that 28 percent of stable, longtime employees sustain at least one damaging layoff by their employers between turning 50 and leaving work for retirement.[7]

Being suddenly unemployed  makes it very difficult  for the older worker to seek new employment, much less address their immediate financial needs and plan for their retirement.  But for thoughtful employers, recently laid off employees offer a unique opportunity to source skilled talent.  In retail, HR departments have long targeted store closings to source skilled workers.  These unwanted “early retirements” of 50+ workers are identifiable and targetable by employers.

In summary, 2019 will see an increased focus on older workers for a number of different economic reasons.  Employers, cities, and 50+  workers that recognize these trends stand to benefit from a talent and economic standpoint for years to come.

About the author. Gary A. Officer is President and CEO of Senior Services America, Inc., the second largest administrator of the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Through its partnerships, SSAI has helped SCSEP get over 700,000 older Americans, veterans included, into the workforce whether for the first time or to go back to work post-retirement.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-08-31/why-the-u-s-economy-is-having-a-boom
[2] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
[3] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
[4] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf
[5] https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk
[6] https://www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm#age
[7] https://www.propublica.org/article/older-workers-united-states-pushed-out-of-work-forced-retirement

By Gary A. Officer

We are a nation that enjoys a good celebration. We rightly celebrate our nation’s Veterans. We cheerfully celebrate the lives and legacies of past Presidents; and, with somber observance, each year we now celebrate the life of Dr. Martin King.

There’s also a group of Americans, who transcend race, religion and geography, with whom each of us, can relate: Our nation’s older Americans.

May is Older Americans Month, established in 1963 to highlight conditions of extreme poverty among our older citizens. The month serves as a reminder of the unique role they have in the daily lives of our families, communities and our nation’s economy.

According to the Administration on Community Living, when Older Americans month was first introduced by President Kennedy, only 17 million older Americans lived past their 65 birthday. About a third of those older Americans lived in poverty and, there were few programs to meet their needs. Many of those affected by poverty and exclusion emerged from a group we commonly refer to as our “greatest generation:” The men and women who had lived through the great depression, served in our nation’s armed forces and, helped to build our nation’s economy as civilians.

Successive Presidents have issued proclamations continuing May as Older Americans Month. At its core, the month provides a well-intended opportunity for us to celebrate our older neighbors and family members within communities across the nation. But we can do more than simply issue proclamations. We need to recognize the continued contributions of Older Americans within our nation’s economy. Indeed Older Americans – hereafter defined as 50 and older – are a demographic group that is vital to our nation’s economic success.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, those that are 50-years plus represent the largest segment of the workforce. Older workers bring high levels of skills and emotional maturity that are essential to the long-term well-being of their employers. Yet in spite of their obvious workforce value, Older Americans remain the victims of continued age discrimination, and are often denied opportunities for job openings and advancement.

One of the greatest barriers for workforce opportunity is the perception that older Americans lack the necessary technological skills to bring value into the workforce. Not true. At Senior Service America, we have found through a recent study of older workers in Tennessee that 87% of those that remain employed demonstrate high levels of technological proficiency if they remain in the workforce.

A recent study by AARP, “Getting Connected Older Americans Embrace Technology to Enhance Their Lives,” confirms that Americans over the age of 50 have fully embraced technology in their daily lives. According to a national survey, 90% of adults over age 50 own a computer, 70% have a smartphone and, over 40% own a tablet. Among adults over age 50, 90% say they use their smartphones to send instant messages, texts or emails and over 75% find them handy for getting directions or traffic information. This age group also uses them for purchasing apps, surfing the internet, getting news and accessing social media, the AARP research found.

The successful integration of older Americans into the Labor Force requires real employment opportunities. For low-income Americans the one program that serves this purpose is the Senior Community Service Employment Program or “SCSEP.” Established under Title V of the Older Americans Act, SCSEP is the nation’s only workforce development program targeted to our nation’s Older Workers. Though not in the headlines, SCSEP is also one of the crown jewels of the great society anti-poverty programs.

Through SCSEP, a former Harvard University instructor who had fallen onto hard times found an opportunity to engage in community service within her local anti-poverty agency in Eastern Massachusetts. She later became SCSEP Program Director at the agency.

Through SCSEP, a former government minister and refugee from war torn Liberia, was provided the opportunity to serve her new community in Belleville, Illinois. After a successful stint working with her host agency, Caritas Family Solutions, this person transitioned into the agency as a staffer – assisting those, like her, who are seeking the opportunity to re-enter the workforce.

Older Americans Month provides us with the opportunity to express our appreciation to the thousands of employers who continue to provide opportunities for our older workers, and to the many community based organizations who provide care for those in need.

Older Americans Month is a time to express our appreciation to the many who have served our nation. It is also a time, according to Merrill Lynch, for us to acknowledge Older Americans for contributing over $78 billion to the economy through acts of volunteerism.

Let us continue to honor and celebrate our nation’s older Americans. However, while doing so we should also recognize – through job action and real employment – their continued role as a vital segment of our nation’s economy.

By Cecilia Garcia

The very first Net Inclusion Summit was held last May in Kansas City, and several Senior Service America staff were there. Convened by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the gathering brought together more than 200 various organizations from across the country working to ensure that all Americans can reap the benefits of 21st century communications technology. We have been working on digital inclusion for older Americans since 2009 and wanted to represent the voice and concerns of this important segment of the population at the summit.

We found ourselves in good company. Wanda Davis of the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center attended our summit breakout session entitled, “Resources for Getting Seniors Online.” We highlighted Wanda’s senior center in an article published by the Benton Foundation’s Digital Beat Blog entitled, “Federal Funding Fosters Senior Digital Learning.” Also at the summit was Kami Griffith of Community Technology Network, whose work with the City of San Francisco’s Department on Aging was also featured in our article.

At our breakout session, Bob Harootyan, SSAI Manager of Research, presented our analysis of data published by the Pew Research Center, indicating that income and education are as important as age in determining whether a person is online or not. We first published this analysis in another Digital Beat Blog article, “Disadvantaged elders: Least likely to be online.” He also presented his findings on how digital learning in a cordial low-pressure learning environment promotes mental well-being, based on data from our Digital Inclusion Initiative.

Session participants told us that they planned to share our research and analysis as they reach out to funders to support digital literacy and computer training for older Americans.

With so much attention being paid to make sure children have Internet access at home for schoolwork, it’s easy for funders and policymakers to overlook the needs of senior citizens. In Kansas City we found that older Americans have some important allies across the country working to eliminate the digital divide for everyone.

Making SCSEP Visible

June 13, 2016

By Tony Sarmiento

If you’re a subgrantee of Senior Service America, Inc., you are focused every day on delivering programs that are efficient and effective. But you won’t be able to accomplish your goals unless older people in your community come to your door.

Some of that happens already because more older Americans are looking for work today more than ever. But many more people could take advantage of SCSEP and your other programs if they only knew about them.

Here are some hints about how and where to generate publicity. These ideas are not foolproof; no media strategy ever is. But they are designed to reach the people who can benefit most from your programs.

NEWSPAPERS: They are still around, and they are particularly alert to local stories if they are small or small-ish. Don’t just mail in a press release. Call the primary local columnist (every paper has one). He or she will always be looking for stories about your community, which are exactly what you can provide.

TELEVISION: Local TV stations often are desperate for human-interest stories on weekends. You’ve got plenty of them. Call the assignment desk, or a reporter you might have seen on the screen.

RADIO: Three avenues are talk shows, all-news stations and public radio. Don’t scoff at the staying power of radio. Research shows that even a one-time “listen” to a radio story stays with a person longer than a TV story.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook or Twitter alone will accomplish very little, but using one or both can support your other visibility efforts. While you might reach more older adults on Facebook, you might reach more reporters on Twitter.

ETHNIC NEWS MEDIA. Over 57 million ethnic adults in the U.S. can be reached through 3000+ ethnic media outlets that include newspapers, radio/TV, and social media. For more information about this fastest growing sector of American journalism, go to New America Media.

We know that for every SCSEP participant, there are another 100 more older workers who are eligible for our program. Let’s do our best to make your program visible in your community.