New studies show baby boomers are staying in their jobs longer, forcing younger workers to stay in low-paying jobs.

Boomers working longer than ever, expert tells Springfield leaders

As the workforce ages, companies are increasingly looking for options that allow baby boomers to continue to contribute to the workforce much longer than may have been the case in previous years, a staffing agency executive told Springfield business leaders Tuesday.

Older workers are staying on the job longer than they have in years past for a variety of reasons, said Jennifer Anderson, vice president of marketing and communications for Express Employment, based in Oklahoma. The average age of the U.S. labor force was 37.7 years old in 1994, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but is expected to spike to 42.4 years old by 2024.

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As many as one in four older workers say they plan to never retire, Anderson said, and 77 percent of boomers say they plan to delay retirement.

The average retirement age for men right now is 64 and for women is 62, according to Express Employment.

About 35 million workers in the labor force are 55 and older, according to the labor statistics bureau, with a labor force participation rate of about 40 percent.

That can lead to conflict as younger workers might remain stuck in lower paying jobs as boomers continue to work later than in years past, Anderson said. In a tight labor market, an aging workforce also creates concerns that productivity will decrease as older workers do eventually retire and it becomes difficult to find qualified replacements.

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But increasingly, she said companies are finding more creative ways to keep older workers engaged while passing their experience down to younger workers.

“There are ways you can keep using this workforce if you’re creative,” Anderson said of baby boomers.

Baby boomers have stayed in the workforce longer than past generations for many reasons, Anderson said. For some, the Great Recession several years ago left workers with inadequate savings for retirement. But other workers want to stay on the job to stay active and for social purposes, she said.

“If we’re willing to be a little flexible, they’ll hang in for a while and help train the next generation,” Anderson said.

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That can include offering more flexible schedules, she said, and allowing older workers to transition away from a traditional work week into retirement.

She also suggested companies can develop mentoring programs, allowing older workers to contribute while training younger workers. In many cases, older workers can also benefit from skills millenials often possess, she said.

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Anderson also recommended employers start a dialogue with older workers to get an idea of their interests and help them transition into retirement.

“We’re thinking so much about passing on that knowledge from the older worker to the younger, we’re forgetting how the older worker can benefit as well,” Anderson said.

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