We need to do more to employ older workers. Right now, we have a huge opportunity to change how we think about work – including who gets to work. Colorado, like most everywhere, is facing a shortage of workers. At the same time, $350 billion dollars is coming to state and local governments to support things like workforce development. Additionally, older workers are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. And, equally important, older workers want to and can work.
However, discussions about labor force development often don’t mention older adults. Our actions should match the realities of our workforce and our demographics. This means helping older adults find work.
This week is National Employ Older Workers Week (9/19-9/25), a perfect time to share recommendations about how to reach older workers.
Use age-inclusive language
Make it clear that opportunities are available to people of all ages, not just the younger population often associated with training initiatives and new hires. Use inclusive language like:
- “We encourage applicants of all ages.”
- “This program is open to students of any age.”
Avoid terms like senior, elderly, or senior citizen. Also, avoid the coded language that suggests that you do not welcome older applicants like “seeking digital natives”. Read more about language to avoid. Other resources include the Associated Press guidelines and Google’s All-In guide to inclusive marketing.
Include images of older adults
Just as with other kinds of diversity, pictures on websites and collateral should include older adults. Show older adults learning, working, and vitally engaged in community. In other words, prospective candidates should be able to see themselves in the images.
Potential sources of free photos that communicate the right message include:
- The REAL Photo Gallery on NextFifty Initiative’s website. Changing the Narrative secured and curated these photos. The images counter visual ageism, show engaged and productive older adults.
- The Older Workers and Entrepreneurs collection being curated by Changing the Narrative on Unsplash.
Utilize networks of organizations serving people age 50
To employ older workers, we have to reach them. Across Colorado, there are organizations with extensive networks of older adults interested in working and ongoing training, including Changing the Narrative. These include:
- Bayaud Industries
- Experienced Engaged (formerly Boomers Leading Change)
- Colorado Center on Aging
- Jewish Family Service
- Partnerships between Colorado workforce development centers and The AARP Foundation’s Back to Work 50+ program, including Arapahoe/Douglas Works!, Denver Economic Development and Opportunity, and Mesa County Workforce Center
Many of these organizations have large mailing lists and social media platforms that reach older Coloradans interested in workforce programs and employment.
Re-think assumptions about work
In short, we are overdue for an overhaul of how we work and how we think about older workers. It’s time to include older adults in hiring and re-skilling plans and re-think how we work to include more people. So, let’s make National Employ Older Worker’s Week the start of an ongoing going effort to create an age-inclusive workforce.
Want to learn more about why to employ older adults? Check out our Age-Friendly Workplace Initiative.
Are you an age-friendly employer? Become certified with the Certified Age-Friendly Employer (CAFE) program.