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Americans are reversing what had been a nearly century-long decline in the participation of older people in the workforce.
For both workers and employers, the rising number of older workers is the result of choice and circumstance.
Workers, faced with shrinking medical and dental benefits and less generous retirement plans, find they don’t have the financial resources to support themselves in retirement, so a lot more of them are returning to work.
Companies, faced with a labor gap that will rise to 4.8 million workers within 10 years and 20 million within 20 years, are seeing older workers in a new light. Older workers represent a pool of talent companies need.
Conventional wisdom used to be that employees over 50 cost companies more in terms of medical problems and missed workdays. But that may not be the case, as studies show that costs associated with older workers are about the same as those of younger workers.
Workers over 50 make up for additional health costs by being more reliable and often more productive than younger workers. An AARP survey of human resource professionals showed that 77% said that older workers have a higher level of commitment than younger workers, and 68% said it cost less or the same to train older workers compared to younger workers.
Older workers also tend to have fewer or no dependent-related health- or child-care costs, and they require lower training and recruitment costs, according to Gail Jern, human resources manager for Westaff.