Mention the baby boomer-related demographic forces that could be a boon for senior living operators in the coming years, and most minds in the industry turn to prospective residents.
Two recent reports, however, suggest that baby boomers of traditional retirement age not only will offer an opportunity to put heads in beds (as the saying goes) in the future; they also are an opportunity to put boots on the ground to solve the industry’s No. 1 challenge, recruiting and retaining workers, right now.
In fact, if the clock is ticking for operators to find solutions for future boomer residents, then the alarm is ringing for them to find answers, now, related to hiring or keeping boomers and fighting ageism in the workplace.
That’s because baby boomers are turning 55 to 73 this year, and the growing 65+ workforce is one of eight workforce trends identified by Glassdoor for 2020. Those who are 65 or more years old will be the fastest-growing segment in the workforce over the next decade, chief economist Andrew Chamberlain, Ph.D., writes in the company’s “Job & Hiring Trends for 2020.”
“They are healthier, work in physically less-demanding jobs, and are more in need of retirement income than previous generations — all forces which are keeping seniors in the workforce longer,” he said.
In fact, whereas the overall U.S. labor force is projected to increase by 5.5% over the next decade, the 65+ workforce will increase by 61%, Chamberlain said. And it’s not just senior living that will have jobs to fill and people to fill them, of course.
The good news for employers, he said, is that older workers can have deep institutional knowledge and more professional contacts than less experienced workers, and many are just as open to learning new skills as are younger workers. Also, Chamberlain said, “A workforce that is more age-diverse can also help boost ‘cognitive diversity,’ drawing in valuable diverse viewpoints that research shows often drive more team creativity and innovation.”
Employers, however, will need to learn new recruiting strategies and step up their games in addressing ageism, he said.
“Although employers around the globe have tackled important issues of gender identity and ethnic diversity in the workplace in recent years, the issue of age bias has gotten much less attention — something we expect to change in 2020 and beyond,” Chamberlain said.
A myth that can fuel ageism in the workplace is that older workers may be hurting the career advancement of younger workers, but research has not found that to be true and even has found that the opposite is true, he said. “That’s an important message for HR teams to communicate to younger workers in the coming decade,” Chamberlain said.
Other research corroborates the trend cited in the Glassdoor report and suggests that it will continue in the generations after the Baby Boom.
According to a new “unretirement” survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade, the majority of Americans aged 40 or more years plan to continue working in paid positions after retiring. “Often with a longer lifespan in mind, some are continuing to work to help make financial ends meet, while others are doing it to stay busy and keep their minds sharp,” TD Ameritrade said.
Maybe their views will change as they age, but as of now, the younger the age group, the higher the percentage who plan to work in a paid position after retiring, the survey found. Ninety-two percent of those aged 40 to 49 plan to keep working; 50 to 59, 86%; 60 to 69, 66%; 70 to 79, 52%. On average, those in their 40s and 50s think they will work 20 hours per week in a paid position after retiring, whereas those in their 70s plan to keep working 10 hours per week.
Of course, this trend will affect operators planning for prospective residents as well. Community common areas and units will have to be built with features and amenities that accommodate the new reality of working residents.
As you’re drawing up the blueprints, don’t forget to revisit the HR handbook, too.