Older workers: another Alaska
by Greg O'Claray
September 18, 2004
Many Alaska employers are missing out on employing some outstanding
workers, in many cases because they have accepted some outdated
clichés: "He or she is 'too old.' 'Too slow.' 'Too
behind the times.' He or she 'didn't have the right look.'"
But the truth is, older Alaskans can be extremely valuable workers.
Our seniors are a human gold
mine, a resource that too often is overlooked in meeting Alaska's
workforce needs. With an increasing older population in Alaska
it is time to put the myths to rest and bring out the facts.
It is projected that Alaska's
elderly, age 60 and over, will make up 20 percent of the state's
population in 2025. That works out to 165,000 persons, compared
to 53,000, or 8.5 percent of the population, in 2000.
The U.S. Census Bureau's population
survey for 2000 revealed that about 6,000 Alaskans, or 17.5 percent
of persons age 65 or over, were working or looking for work.
The national figure during this time was 12.8 percent. As Alaska's
population gets older the number of elderly Alaskans seeking
work will increase.
We have identified several
myths and realties regarding older workers:
Myth: People over 65 are too old to keep working.
Reality: Thanks to advances in health care,
older workers are better able than ever to continue making contributions
to the workforce.
Older workers don't care about the success of their employer.
Reality: Hiring managers report that older
workers are more quality conscious and have a firmer dedication
to their jobs, product, services, and employers than younger
Myth: Older workers frequently miss work for health
Reality: Absenteeism is only slightly higher
for older workers: 4.1 percent for workers 55 and older, versus
3.8 percent for workers 25 to 54.
Myth: Training older workers is a waste of time, because
they will retire soon anyway.
Reality: Of all age groups, job retention is
highest among 55-to-64 year olds, even when the older worker
is a recent hire. In fact, when retirement is excluded, workers
over the age of 60 have a turnover rate less than one-sixth that
of workers aged 35 and younger.
Myth: Older workers are technophobes who are unable
to make use of information technology.
Reality: Between 1997 and 2000, people over
50 were reportedly the fastest growing part of the U.S. internet
audience, growing from 19 percent to 38 percent in just three
years. And the growth hasn't slowed. Internet use by Americans
50-64 years old increased by 15 percent between 2000 and 2002,
while usage by Americans 65 and older increased by 28 percent.
Myths are a poor excuse for
not hiring older Alaskans. They are dedicated and loyal. They
understand the meaning of "getting the job done." They
possess a sense of accountability and responsibility.
Alaska's older workers are
neither lazy nor burned-out. They've learned that productivity
is a product of disciplined habits.
Governor Frank Murkowski has
designated September 19 - 25 is National Employ Older Workers
Week in Alaska. Please consider older Alaskans if you are an
employer and need reliable, experienced employees. This is one
valuable Alaska resource you shouldn't pass up. (And by the way,
I'll be 62 in November!)
Note: Greg O'Claray is the
Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
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