The Caregivers is a unique series focused on the challenges and triumphs of caregiving. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between AARP and Word In Black.
We are aging every day. This inevitable process brings us the opportunity to secure a legacy and, if we are fortunate, to pave a way for future generations.
Aging also presents some hard realities, which can include unexpected changes in our support systems, the possibility of declining health, and a rocky quest for stable finances.
A few years ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the United States labor force would increase to nearly 164 million people by 2024. Another prediction from the agency? The fastest growing segment of the labor force would be 13 million workers ages 65 and older. Many workers are expected to return to the labor force after short- and long-term breaks. Other workers will be continuing their journey out of necessity.
Here are some of the challenges that aging workers face as our workforce expands:
Competition with younger workers for jobs
Let’s face it. Aging workers who are 65 and older may be well equipped to work across industries, but employers pursue younger talent in hopes of greater innovation and longevity at a cheaper cost. Misperceptions about the aging worker run the gamut and are the basis of age discrimination across the United States. In a study, AARP found that 78% of older workers reported having seen or experienced age discrimination. This was markedly higher compared to 61% in 2018.
Being the only one on the team
Think it’s hard being the only Black person on the bi-weekly Zoom meeting for your team? Well, imagine being the only vintage employee. Aging workers who are 65 and older and are not self-employed may find themselves working under supervisors who are younger and, in some instances, less qualified. Differences in work experience and overall life experience can create awkward tensions or beautiful breakthroughs in intergenerational understanding. It all depends on the industry. Age discrimination can creep in when there are assumptions about an aging worker’s capabilities.
Shifts in support structures and loneliness
The aging workforce can experience various shifts in who is there to be a support system. Loved ones may die or relocate to other cities. Meanwhile, some workers may take on roles as caregivers for grandchildren or other relatives. This can have a tremendous qualitative effect on performance in the workforce.
For example, in a survey of Black people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, the research firm Community Marketing Insights found that only about half of respondents believed that they could be themselves at work or in their community.
The possibility of declining physical or mental health
We are all at risk of declining physical or mental health as we age. That risk can increase for workers ages 65 and older. Depending on various factors, including genetics and lifestyle, certain ailments, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, glaucoma, and depression, may manifest themselves strongly when we reach our 60s.
But, hey, there’s hope.
There is hope for aging workers who are 65 and older. Look out for our story about entrepreneurs who are starting to build a legacy after the traditional retirement age through entrepreneurship. Here are some tips for making that happen.