Gray Power: Employers are not changing quickly enough with the times

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The United States population reached 300 million on Oct. 17, 2006. The population is increasing at the rate of one person every 11 seconds. It took 39 years to increase the population by 50 percent since surpassing 200 million in 1967. It took 91 years to triple the population since reaching 100 million in 1915. The median age today is 36.-2 years-old compared to 24.1- years-old in 1915. Americans are aging.

What does that mean to Alabama employers? Almost 800,000 Alabamians are over 60 years of age; nearly 25 percent of Alabama&8217;s population. Nearly one million Alabamians are over 50 years old.

The pool of persons ages 55 and older will grow by 30 percent over the next ten years, compared to only a four percent growth rate for the 16-54 age group. People age 55 and older will account for 75 percent of the projected increase in the nation&8217;s working-age population in the next decade.

How is the workforce changing? Twenty-five percent of older adults age 60 and over are in the workforce. A majority of the workers 60-69 work full time, while age 70-plus work part time. Workers age 55-64 will grow the most of any workforce group in the United States.

In a recent study, employment is the number one need identified by senior citizens in Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, Chilton, St. Clair and Walker Counties.

Americans are not prepared for retirement and employers are not prepared to hire older workers.

Employers are going to have to change their perception of the workforce because the generation following the Baby Boomers is much smaller. There are fewer workers to replace retirees. This will be good for workers because there will be more jobs available, but bad for employers because there will not be workers to fill these slots. Mr. Employer are you ready for this?

Some employers are discovering the benefits of hiring older workers. Many national corporations such as CVS, Borders, Met Life, and Home Depot are actively recruiting older workers for employment opportunities. Where does your company stand?

Dr. Marvin Copes is Education/Community Service Volunteer for AARP Alabama in Maylene. He can be reached by e-mail at