By ANN BELSER
December 11, 2007
But what about those workers who don't want to retire?
"Labor force participation by elderly men has been inching up since the early 1990s," said Robert D. Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. He hosted a forum last week to address the questions that will arise not when baby boomers retire, but when they keep working.
One question, he said, is, "Will older workers see this as an opportunity instead of an extra burden?"
Eric Toder, a fellow at the Urban Institute and Tax Policy Center, said the working poor would find it necessary to keep on the job as they age. People who earn more during their working years save more and tend to have pensions that can help shield them from rising health-care costs.
"People at the bottom of the income distribution could be very stressed over the next 10 to 20 years," Tober said.
At the same time, he said, even though people are working longer, they also are living longer so they spend longer in retirement.
Cynthia Metzler, who runs Experience Works Inc., said there are older people who have to choose between food and heat.
"Working for them is not something they want to do, it's something they need to do," she said.
But no matter the motivation, she said, "There needs to be an employer ready to hire these people."
Barbara Bovbjerg, the director of education, work force and income security issues for the U.S. General Accounting Office, said there are some companies that are providing creative ways to attract older employees. CVS Pharmacy's snowbird employment program allows employees to work at the company's Northern stores in the summer and Southern stores in the winter. Other companies from which employees have retired are bringing them back later as consultants.
Still, she said those companies are the exception rather than the rule.
"We should publicize the best practices," she said. Then she talked about her own employer: "The federal government needs to walk the talk and the federal government needs to model how to be a good employer."
Steps that employers can take to make the workplace more accommodating to older workers would, in fact, benefit all workers.
"While we're looking at flexible workplaces for older workers, we're looking at flexible workplaces for Gen X and Gen Y," said Sharon Masling, an attorney for Workplace Flexibility 2010.
She said the flexibility that older workers may use to work part-time also allows parents to care for children, workers to take time off for graduate school and members of the so-called sandwich generation to balance the family obligations of their parents and children.
"There's really flexibility that's needed throughout the entire course of your lives," she said.
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