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State Leadership for Older Workers—State Profile Comparisons

by Michelle Wong, Gloria Tower, Tay McNamara & and Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes

October 2008—A new president will be sworn in this January, but according to the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, older workers need economic change even sooner.

A new report titled State Leadership for Older Workers, prepared by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work, focuses on some take-away messages about this older worker population. The report highlights the “facts” of the aging of the population in contrast to the “realities” that state leaders are facing.

For many older men and women, Social Security payments will not be enough to live on during their retirement. Studies indicate that many do not have sufficient equity or savings to cover retirement, even without the current financial crisis. This leaves earned income, which means that individuals will have to work well past retirement age in order to have a more secure future.

It’s not just a small number of people affected, either. In Wyoming, for example, 23.9% of the population is 55 or older. This population trend is expected to increase even more by 2010. Arizona’s population is on the verge of a workforce trend similar to what was experienced in the 1960s.

As more and more Baby Boomers near retirement, businesses should be concerned about the changing workforce—but research conducted by the Sloan Center indicates that 25.8% of workplaces have not even begun to consider the implications of this veritable seismic shift. Therefore, state governments are taking measures to ensure that their older citizens have a better chance at financial stability.

Arizona has set a good example by establishing an Older Worker Friendly Award for businesses in the private sector that work to encourage older workers as well as bring their issues to the forefront. Those businesses that pass the “friendly test” are awarded a certificate from the Governor. Wyoming has followed in Arizona’s footsteps and established an award of its own.

Recently, Wyoming was one of eight states chosen by the National Governors Association (NGA) to receive help for older workers. Workshops, seminars, and other resources will be offered to older adults in order to more fully engage them in the workforce and volunteerism.

Other states need to follow Wyoming’s and Arizona’s examples in order to engage and empower older adults, who are faced with a decline in the quality of their lives. It is in the state governments’ best interests to reach out to older workers now in order to help them secure employment; otherwise, older adults will be dependent on government assistance.

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