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Many baby boomers choose to stay on the job
Salt Lake Tribune


December 26, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY - The new year marks the 60th birthday for the first of the baby boomers, heralding a dramatic transformation of the labor market. With more than a third of the work force age 45 and older, many employers are bracing themselves to lose 25 percent to 45 percent of their workers in the next decade.

New research suggests that companies can slow the talent drain. The often work-centric baby boomers might be willing to work past typical retirement age - if it is on their terms. Many older workers will work longer if offered greater job autonomy, control over work hours and opportunities for learning, according to a study released last week by the Families and Work Institute and the Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College.



"The boomers are going to change what we considered to be the definitions of work and retirement," says Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, co-director of the Center on Aging and Work. "They don't necessarily want to work full time or have retirement be full time. They want to mix it up."

The old paradigm of working full throttle for decades and then switching overnight to total retirement is being replaced by a new model, one that has spawned the oxymoron: "retirement job."

Although roughly 80 percent of older workers plan to continue working into their 60s and perhaps beyond, only 6 percent want to do so in a conventional full-time workweek, according to a recent survey by Merrill Lynch. Employers who offer flexible work arrangements, such as job sharing, telecommuting, part-time work, compressed workweeks or seasonal work can retain those employees longer, buying time to hire and train younger workers.

Judy McAninch is 62 with no plans to retire. In fact, she just made a career move from lab supervisor to medical technologist at ARUP Laboratories, which processes medical tests from around the nation at its Salt Lake City headquarters.

McAninch, who has worked for ARUP for nine years, made the switch because she wanted a position with less stress and more flexible hours. Instead of the conventional workweek, she now works seven, 10-hour days and then gets seven days off. She works 70 hours during a two-week pay period, but she's compensated for 80 without accruing paid vacation time.

This means she has 26 weeks off per year and can spend more time with her granddaughter and daughter, who works the same schedule at ARUP.

"It gives me a chance to do things on that week off that I normally wouldn't have," McAninch says. "The nice thing about working for a company with flexible arrangements is I will eventually cut back to 30 hours a week."

Responding to employees' needs for flexible schedules has improved retention and boosted productivity at ARUP, says Von Madsen, assistant vice president of human resources. One-sixth of the company's 1,800 employees are 50 or older.

"There aren't as many people to fill those jobs when the baby boomers leave," Madsen says. "Keeping them here as long as we can is going to be very, very valuable." That's especially true among medical technologists, Madsen adds. The "aging" profession is concentrated among older workers, with few young people entering the field behind them.

Yet against this backdrop, only 28 percent of employers nationwide offer phased retirement, according to the Families and Work Institute.

Pitt-Catsouphes says retaining older workers will prove valuable for multiple reasons. Older workers are more experienced and, if kept on the job, can train younger workers. They also are less likely to be keeping an eye out for another job. Plus, she says, aging baby boomers can provide insights on how to win over one of the largest market niches: themselves


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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