Workers Over 55 are Now the Fastest-growing Labor Pool in the U.S.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, “The share of workers 55 years and older who are working reached 39.2% in December of 2018.” That percentage continues to climb as the generation affectionately known as Baby Boomers drives the U.S. job growth.

It is projected that by 2030, 20% of the total U.S. population will be made up of people 65 years or older. That’s 72 million adults, many of whom are choosing to remain in the workforce instead of retiring.

Although an estimated 10,000 Boomers are retiring daily, enough of them are staying at their jobs or rejoining the workforce after retirement, that they continue to make up the largest portion of the American labor pool. Astonishingly, in 2018 older workers were responsible for nearly half of all employment gains in the U.S. In their January 8, 2019 report, TIR Analytics, an economic research company wrote: “Of the 2.9 million jobs gained over the year…49% came from workers aged 55 and over, over twice their share of the workforce.”

There is much speculation about why the data is what it is. For one, the aging population is reportedly healthier longer, due to medical advances. Another reason may be due to economic necessity. Health Insurance premiums are rising and there are changes in eligibility requirements for Social Security retirement benefits. The Retirement Age Calculator on the official Social Security website states: “Full retirement age (also called "normal retirement age") had been 65 for many years. However, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, that age gradually increases until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959.”

Most importantly, working appears to keep the older worker healthier. A 2010 study completed by Susann Rohwedder and Robert J. Willis on Mental Retirement strongly suggests that the mental stimulation of working has a strong beneficial impact on well-being and mental health. They have a convincing argument against early retirement. In the conclusion of their paper, they write: “Early retirement has a significant negative impact on the cognitive ability of people in their early 60s that is quantitatively important.”

There is, of course, a longer-range benefit to society that should not be overlooked. While some may argue that older workers are not adaptable to the fast-paced, constantly changing technological world we live in today, others see the many gifts that people having lived over five decades have to offer. Susan Weinstock, vice president of financial resilience programming, AARP, points out examples of the soft skills acquired over a lifetime of work that older folks bring to their workplace, such as: “calm under pressure, ability to solve complex problems, ability to listen and be empathetic. These are uniquely human skills that a computer or a robot can’t replace.”

In the lobby of the DataCeutics (now a part of Navitas Life Sciences) Pennsylvania office, such uniquely human skills are on vivid display. CEO Matt Ferdock’s parents, Ron and Kathleen Ferdock, have been spreading joy for over two decades by decorating a section of the office for every season and holiday.

Although they are both retired, (Ron, after 35 years as an English professor, and Kathleen after 30 years as a dietitian) this simple task of planning and executing each display keeps them engaged and contributing in a warm, and very human way to the office environment, and brightening up everyone’s day in the process.

There are industries, ours among them, where decades of experience are not only well-respected but desired. The ability to build on past knowledge and experience is a big advantage on many fronts. Nearly 25% of our programmers and biostatisticians are over 55 years of age, and the fact that they have worked in the industry for over 20 years is a huge benefit.

The high experience levels we require of our staff ensures that we provide our customers with a highly skilled team of professionals. Because of their many years in the industry, our statisticians are experienced in working with clinical operations, Data Management and the Programming Department; listening closely to other professionals and understanding their role in the process.

If you are a Baby Boomer wishing to stay in the workforce, Dr. Louise Aronson, geriatric specialist ND, author of Elderhood has some excellent advice for you. In a recent interview by Judith Graham, published in the Annals of Long-Term Care, she said,” People age differently — in different ways and at different rates. I’ve been focusing on what I call the five P’s.”

Person- First consider who you are as a whole person, your health and well-being.

Prevention- Exercise is key to staying fit, even a small amount makes a huge difference.

Purpose- Think about what makes you happy, and consider your goals and values.

Priorities- Establish your priorities and plan for the future.

Perspective- Figure out what is most important to you and what you need to do to get there.

“Perspective is about how people see themselves in older age,” Dr. Aronson says. “Are you willing to adapt and compensate for some of the ways you’ve changed? This isn’t easy by any means, but I think most people can get there if we give them the right support,” she encourages.

With the unemployment rate currently at 3.9%, many employers are having trouble finding qualified workers, so it’s a particularly good time for experienced, mature workers to cash in on their expertise.

For more about experienced programmers.see:
What Makes for a Great Navitas Data Sciences Programmer?