Colorado needs workers. Older workers may be the answer.

According to news reports, Colorado is facing a labor shortage. In response, local businesses are getting creative to with solutions. According to the Denver Post (paywall), employers are coming up with creative strategies to attract and keep employees. This includes one-time grants, support for tuition and improving retirement benefits. Colorado’s unemployment rate is staying at record lows, below 3%.

Colorado businesses may be missing another opportunity for gaining skilled employees – hiring older adults. People over 50 are the fastest growing segment of the labor force. Plus, many older workers want to work well past the traditional retirement age. People age 50+ make up 32% of Colorado’s population and contribute 42% to state GDP. It’s time to use this willing and able resource.

Why hire older workers

Older people still face hurdles to employment. Unfortunately, many of these hurdles are based on outdated assumptions. Here are a few WRONG assumptions:

  • Older adults will not work for long – Retirement age has changed, because we live longer and healthier lives. A 60-year-old could be looking at 10, 20 or more productive years.
  • Older adults do not have enough to offer – Actually, more experienced workers have soft skills that can only come from years of experience.
  • Older adults want titles and control – Not all older people want traditional jobs. For instance, many older adults are interested in flexible schedules. Meaningful work and flexibility can be more important than titles.
  • Older workers are stuck in old ways – Experienced workers are successful entrepreneurs and trainees. It just isn’t true that we stop being able to learn as we age.

The biggest wrong assumption is that all older workers are alike. People age at different rates and life experience ranges tremendously. Therefore, we need to drop the old ideas. The talent pool of older workers is a diverse and skilled resource for Colorado businesses.

What the future will bring

Businesses in Colorado may need to make adjustments to take advantage of this talent pool. For instance, we must change hiring practices, particularly the assumptions we make purely based on age. We need new employment structures. Possible career paths should take into consideration what older workers offer. Business need to invest in training or re-skilling older workers. We are looking at a change in the labor pool and it is time to find ways to make it work for both businesses and people.

Want to learn more about the case for intergenerational workplaces? Check out our page on age-friendly workplaces. Changing the Narrative can also come to you. To set up a presentation or get more information, contact us.

Sara Breindel, Changing the Narrative blogger

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