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What new strategies does the aging workforce require? Productive aging

As more baby boomers reach retirement age, state governments face the likelihood of higher workforce turnover. For example, in the state of Missouri, more than 25 percent of all active state employees will be eligible to retire by 2016, says new research, “A case study of Missouri’s deferred retirement incentive for state employees,” Curl, A.L. and Havig, K. (in press) that will appear soon in the Journal of Aging and Social Policy. Productive aging and the topic of prevention in healthcare are the big pictures for older adults to consider.

What new strategies do the various aging workforce, require? Productive aging.
Anne Hart, photography.

It seems like society is more about promoting anti-aging products than about increasing productive aging. The popularity of restorative medicine is growing, but what about functional productivity? Older adults are told, "You're retired. It's time to relax." But older adults may want continuity.

The more you feel spent, the more you're encouraged to productivity in another area of lifestyle, activities, or nutrition. You're told it's not a face lift, it's a lifestyle elevation. But sometimes the lift in life can come from watching travel videos for those who have outlived their savings and can't afford to hike the Alps at eighty and better. There are research projects that mention the rising numbers of retirees that "threaten the continuity." Threaten? But continuity is a time line.

Father Time is married to Mother Nature in the workforce. And life seems to revolve around the workforce and productivity. Without productivity and the workforce, there's that feeling of dependence and restriction. But dependence and restriction also is about employees and their bosses where cooperation is needed for productivity.

Or perhaps reach an age where it's possible to make peace with the community by reaching out and really enjoying the sights of nature. But tell that to the senior citizen survivors of assault, robbery, and burglaries where they can't even step out of their houses at night for fear of being harassed by youth. Young people are afraid of the elder rage of seniors with certain types of dementia where the senior becomes violent due to brain issues. And older adults who are not violent are scared of youth who perceive them as people without much muscle, the time-worn 'sarcopeniacs'.

Such large number of retirees threaten the continuity?

Such large numbers of retirees threaten the continuity, membership and institutional histories of the state government workforce, according to Angela Curl, assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Social Work. In a case study of the state of Missouri’s Deferred Retirement Option Provision (BackDROP), Curl concluded that states may need to restructure deferred retirement incentives to encourage more employees to remain on the job longer and minimize the disruption to government operations. Who's responsible for the health of people as they age, the individuals or the safety nets?

Does the aging freelancer, independent contractor, or consultant need a different long-term strategy from the aging workforce working for government, education, military, or private industry? With so many women who worked in various part-time positions receiving no pensions, perks, or retirement pay buy-outs, who provides for the long-term maintenance of an aging population and the healthcare (including disease prevention and nutrition) of the people? Is it the individual, the employer, or the government? And then there's the topic of retention and turnover in the workplace.

“Employers need to ask if their organizations are designed to promote turnover or promote retention,” Curl said, according to the April 3, 2014 news release by Anne Allen, Aging workforce requires new strategies for employee retention, MU researcher says. “States should recognize the benefits of promoting retention. Using delayed retirement incentives to encourage retention is important, particularly when dealing with older employees.”

Curl said that a good system of employee retention is inclusive, flexible and accounts for the wide range of circumstances that retirement-eligible employees may consider when deciding to defer retirement

These circumstances could include caregiving for older parents or having a spouse who is retired. In Missouri, BackDROP offers a one-time payment equaling 90 percent of what employees would have received in benefits for an additional five years of service as incentive to delay retirement.

The best predictors of whether state employees chose to delay retirement were: their levels of awareness of retirement options, job functions, and how old they were before they became eligible for deferring retirement. The more aware employees were of BackDROP, the more likely they were to defer retirement. Employees who became eligible for deferring retirement at an older age also were more likely to choose to work longer.

Curl’s study was designed to see if race, sex, level of education and marital status played a significant role in retirement-eligible employees’ decisions to defer retirement

The study of 296 Missouri state employees eligible for BackDROP revealed that these social demographics did not play significant roles in employees’ decision to work longer. “Deferred retirement options like BackDROP may be effective at retaining skilled employees in positions that are difficult to fill,” Curl said, according to the news release. “Often, state employees retire and go on to second careers in the private sector.”

Kirsten Havig, who received her doctorate from MU, co-authored the paper and now works at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. The School of Social Work is part of the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. Since the case study was completed, the state of Missouri discontinued BackDROP for new hires. You also may wish to see the abstract of another study, "No foot in the door: An experimental study of employment discrimination against older workers." Or you may wish to check out, "Productive aging: A feminist critique," or "Age-Friendly Portland: A University-City-Community Partnership."

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