Disconnects and Dilemmas in America

  1. Americans are living substantially longer lives and in better health, but our thinking about aging and retirement remains largely unchanged.
  2. Myths and stereotypes about aging are prevalent, despite a massive amount of contrary data.
  3. The focus is on marketing to younger people, while older people have the money (people 50 and older own or control more than 70% of the accumulated private wealth in America and account for 50% of total discretionary spending).
  4. We view people in terms of chronological age, rather than considering their overall capabilities and their ability to add value.
  5. The national focus is on hiding the wrinkles and shedding the years, thus perpetuating ageism thinking and encouraging people to disguise their age.
  6. HR executives’ views about older workers are very positive, but there is no significant emphasis on utilizing them to a substantial degree.  The reality is that older people have much more to offer than younger ones in terms of experience, expertise, seasoned judgment, and proven performance; research demonstrates that they have better skills and abilities, are more reliable and dependable, and have much lower absenteeism and turnover.
  7. Companies make a substantial investment in developing the intellectual and social capital of their employees, yet encourage them to retire earlier or terminate them instead of obtaining a better return on that investment through providing flexible work opportunities.
  8. Companies spend much more on training and development of younger than older workers, despite the reality that investment in older people would have a better pay-off because younger workers have more than three times the turnover of Workers 50+.
  9. Employee benefit programs, particularly defined pension plans, encourage people to retire earlier, even though many would like to continue working longer and are able to add substantial value.
  10. Economic growth and our standard of living may be reduced if older workers are not provided with opportunities to continue working (i.e., they will be drawing from instead of contributing to the economy), yet there is no real recognition of the need to do so.
  11. Research demonstrates that millions of Americans want to continue working after retirement (over 70% of the Baby Boomers indicate that they plan to do so), the largest percentage on a part-time basis, but most companies aren’t providing phased retirement or other flexible programs that will enable them to retain older workers who can continue adding value.
  12. Laws and public policies often discourage or provide a disincentive for older people to continue working, instead of encouraging them to do so.
  13. Medicare and Social Security are financially unsustainable, and yet we only apply bandaids.  The retirement age must be changed to reflect that people are living longer and in better health; enabling older people to remain productively engaged would ease Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid problems and would contribute to economic growth.
  14. We focus on the problems and even potential crises of an aging population, without understanding and taking advantage of the benefits and opportunities.
  15. Older people lack understanding about life management planning, but most companies do not provide counsel to employees as they approach retirement, except perhaps for financial planning.
  16. People do not start saving soon enough for their retirement needs, including long-term care, and we continue to have an extremely low savings rate despite the fact that people are living longer and will need to finance their increased longevity.
  17. More emphasis on physical fitness and regular exercise would be in the interests of older people, as well as in the national interest, but research indicates that the focus on health and wellness is diminishing.

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