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Department of Labor Celebrates National Employ Older Workers Week

The last full week of September has been named National Employ Older Workers Week. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as our population ages, older employees will fill an increasingly important position in our economy and our leadership in the world marketplace.

Senior worker with hard hat and megaphone

By the end of this year, workers older than 55 will make up almost a quarter of the U.S. labor force. Older workers in increasing numbers are remaining on the job beyond the traditional age of retirement, both for economic reasons and because they enjoy their jobs. Helping older adults remain in the workforce also provides a boost to our national economy: These workers pay taxes and cover more of their own expenses during their later years. That’s one reason the Department of Labor is reminding companies about scientific studies which demonstrate that, contrary to ageist stereotypes, older workers are a good investment, rating high on characteristics such as judgment, commitment to quality, attendance, and punctuality.

Nonetheless, older adults can face barriers:

Age discrimination is still alive in some companies. Senior job hunters may be rejected routinely and employed seniors may be the first to be laid off because they are in a higher pay range and have higher healthcare costs, although studies show their assets as employees more than make up for these factors.

Older workers may be passed over for promotion and technical training because managers believe this investment is wasted on a person with fewer years to go before retirement — even though the greater loyalty and stability of older employees often means they are more likely to be around for several years later than their younger counterparts.

Though older workers are rarely dealing with childcare conflicts, they are the group most likely to be serving as family caregivers for a spouse, elderly parent or other relative — and they report that they receive less accommodation than younger employees who are caring for children. According to the AARP’s Susan Reinhard, "Workplace discrimination against family caregivers is growing more commonplace and more problematic as baby boomers age and combine work in the paid labor force and unpaid work as caregivers for their parents. It may take the form of limited flexibility, denied leave or even a pink slip."

The Department of Labor urges employers to recognize the value of older workers and to create age-friendly workplaces that take best advantage of these seasoned employees. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges employers to consider the safety needs of older workers by removing fall hazards, providing improved lighting, and adding ergonomically improved, age-friendly adaptations to lessen the impact of age-related mobility or sensory changes. Labor attorneys remind employers to include age in their diversity training programs. And more and more human resources specialists are urging companies to include elder care assistance as part of their employee assistance programs and benefits packages.

Caregivers at Higher Risk of Employment Challenges

To provide care for their loved ones, many family caregivers cut back or withdraw entirely from their paid work — which can be a very bad choice indeed when it comes to their own economic security. Before they make this choice, caregivers should learn about support services that can help them balance their work and caregiving responsibilities. It may be time to ask other family members to step up to the plate with time or financial assistance. Adult day centers and respite care are an option. And many families have learned that professional in-home care is an economically sensible choice to free caregiver employees to focus on their jobs. While family members are at work, in-home caregivers provide …

  • Supervision for clients who have physical or cognitive challenges.
  • Assistance with hygiene and personal care, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, oral care and incontinence care.
  • Meal planning and preparation.
  • Light housekeeping.
  • Transportation.
  • Support for healthcare and medication management.
  • Communication with family members, whether they live nearby or at a distance.

From Family Caregiver to Professional Caregiver

The demand for professional in-home caregivers is growing every year. Labor experts predict that with the aging of the baby boomers, home care companies may be scrambling to find qualified candidates for these important jobs. Here's some good news: Home care companies today report that older workers can be ideal caregivers, with a superior rapport with clients and understanding of their needs.

Many of these caregivers come from a surprising source: people who formerly served as family caregivers to their own loved ones. These caring people arrive on the job already equipped with their personal caregiving experience and knowledge. "Our franchisees employ many older workers,” said Dave Creal, vice president of support at Right at Home, Inc. “We find that older caregivers are compassionate and nurturing, and because many have been family caregivers, they bring a wealth of life experience to their role in serving the needs of our clients. Older workers also easily engage with our clients, and their positive attitude is contagious!"

This is a win-win trend for older workers and seniors with care needs alike. Many of these workers are re-entering the workforce after a hiatus spent caring for their loved one. In a recent issue of the professional journal of the Gerontological Society of America, Northwestern University researchers reported that this hiring trend could help address two pressing challenges for America’s seniors: a shortage of qualified professional caregivers and a shortage of jobs for older adults, especially those who have been out of the workforce while caring for a loved one. It doesn’t make sense to waste the experience of this valuable labor pool!

Learn More 

The AARP website provides information for older workers and job-seekers, including information about protecting family caregivers from employment discrimination and showcasing the value of older workers.  

The National Council on Aging’s JobSource tool helps senior job-seekers.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program is a community service and work-based training program for older workers.

Family members who are thinking about leaving the workforce in order to care for a loved one should consider the long-term effect on their careers. Read "Financial Planning Tips for Working Caregivers" in the December 2011 issue of Caring Right at Home for a list of factors to consider.

For information on topics related to home care and healthcare, visit our Home Care and Healthcare Advocacy group on LinkedIn.  

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Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care services.


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