Starting June 18, Changing the Narrative (CTN) is launching a survey of adults age 50+ in Colorado to learn more about your pre-and post-COVID experiences job seeking and in the workplace. The survey runs from June 18-July 10, 2020. The survey is online in English or Spanish.

Why are we doing a survey?

Over the past year, CTN has been presenting the case for hiring older adults and dispelling myths about people over 50. We’ve heard from hundreds of older adults seeking work and often having difficulties.

We know that older workers are a diverse, valuable and underutilized resource. We also know that many of you are stuck in jobs that do not utilize your skills and that older adults are more likely to experience involuntary unemployment. There are many misconceptions that hamper the ability of adults age 50+ to find and keep work. We need to see older adults as they really are, instead of through generalizations and stereotypes about age.

Colorado has an opportunity for employers to increase the depth of knowledge and resiliency of their workforce and help rebuild the economy by engaging older workers. But, first we need a clearer picture of who you are and what you need.

Getting a picture of work & 50+ Coloradans

The survey includes questions about who is employed and who isn’t; the nature of your employment or job search and what you need to stay engaged in the workforce. The survey also delves into why people are looking for work and the impact of being older. In addition to asking about services (e.g. resume assistance, interview coaching), the survey will also investigate interest in training and alternatives like internships, entrepreneurship and “returnships”.

People are living longer and healthier lives and many need and want to work longer. With an accurate picture of 50+ workers, we can better equip employers, government agencies and workforce centers to support and access the growing talent pool of experienced workers.

The current challenges

Older adults offer skills and perspective gained only through experience. We want to capitalize on this resource rather than let this group flounder in unemployment. Older workers are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, but one that faces challenges. Consider that people in their middle age now will live ten years longer than their parents and twenty years longer than their grandparents. The retirement gap before the pandemic was already large. The average American will deplete their savings 9.6 years before they die.

Now, we are facing the biggest recession in generations and many people have depleted resources and lost employment. The pandemic complicates job searching. However, people still need to work and businesses need to rebuild. The situation is particularly time-sensitive for U.S. workers, as CARE Act funds run out August 1st.

We need a survey of 50+ adults right now. Current data suggests that older workers are becoming unemployed at a higher rate than the average during the pandemic. The monthly April jobs report showed that the “unemployment rate at ages 65 and older reached 15.6 percent, the highest level since records began in 1948”. This is three points higher than the average, the biggest gap in generations. This will create serious challenges for 50+ workers.

To add to all of this, ageism has increased during the pandemic. Negative stereotypes about older people have been reinforced during the pandemic and this may make it even harder for older adults seeking work. In response to the pandemic, commentators characterize older adults as one homogenous, vulnerable “other”. In truth, older adults are a very diverse population that is capable and willing to work.

How you can help

The Colorado 50+ adult survey will help people across the state. Our goal is to support better access to improved workforce services for these workers and for employers. With our economy starting to re-open and hire people, we need to understand the fastest growing segment of the workforce and get behind them.

If you are a Coloradan who is age 50 or over, please take the survey and share with family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues. All responses are anonymous, and you will be entered into a drawing for one of five $100 gift cards.

If you are with an organization serving older adults, please share with your lists and on your social media. Together, we can create a climate for older Coloradans, and the economy, to thrive

Karen Brown, Director Changing the Narrative Age-Friendly Workplace Campaign

Read more about age-friendly workplaces and older adults in the workforce.