These days, older Americans are sticking around the workplace. They aren’t retiring at age 65. They’re exchanging traditional retirement for the reality of high healthcare costs and financial responsibility. This graying workforce is causing workplace woes for younger workers. Many aren’t thrilled that a rising number of older Americans are not ready to quit their jobs.
According to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, older generations and younger generations are polarized in their view of America’s aging workforce. About 40% of people ages 18 to 49 consider the trend to be bad for American workers. Of the people polled who were age 60 and over—only 14% agreed.
Some young people think seniors hold back economic momentum. A third of younger men and women polled think the aging workplace is bad news for their own careers.
But is that a myth? Steve Burghardt thinks so. He’s a professor of social work. “One of the myths that’s out there causing younger and older people to butt heads is the idea that ‘Oh, it’s because these older people are on the job preventing me from getting the job I want.’” Burghardt thinks young Americans are blame-shifting.
Ashton Applewhite, a New York-based ageism activist agrees. “In anxious times, we look for scapegoats. And old people are a ready scapegoat. . . .” A scapegoat is a person who is blamed for the faults of others. (Check out Leviticus 16:20-22.)
There are two sides to every story. What do older Americans think? About 60% age 60 and over think the graying workplace trend is a good thing. They bring experience to their workplaces. And they know they need to keep working longer rather than retire and draw earlier than needed from pensions and Social Security. Some work to keep their heads above water. Others work to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. “You think I’m going to stop working a year from now and rely on Social Security for the next 20 years? No,” says 61-year-old Mitch Rothschild of New York City.
Could viewing people through a biblical lens change the climate in America’s workplace? Older people are called to remember God’s faithfulness and teach the younger generations (who are also called to listen; see Deuteronomy 32:7). Scripture pours insight into the value of relationships between older and younger generations. (See 1 Timothy 5:1-2.) Is there harm in the aging workforce? What if America’s workplace could be a magnet that pulls generations together?
(These four employees at Digi-Key in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, say they are near or past retirement age, but plan to keep working. They like the work, the company, and their coworkers. As the state’s workforce ages, keeping on workers at retirement age could be more important to keeping jobs filled. AP photo)