In 2012, The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) was awarded a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop and launch a new awards program for New York City employers who promote policies and practices that benefit multigenerational workforces and enhance business success. This awards program is an extension of Age-friendly NYC, a public-private partnership to make New York City a better place to grow old. New York City’s position as a global leader in commerce, media, and in the Age-friendly Cities movement heightens the visibility of the award and magnifies the attention to the issue of the aging workforce.
Perspectives of Older New Yorkers and Employers in New York City
When NYAM staff conducted community consultations with more than 2,000 older adults in 2007, many New Yorkers of “retirement age” found the prospect of full retirement neither financially viable nor personally desirable. Financial needs were the driving motivation for many, and reflected the erosion of assured retirement income and benefits (e.g., defined benefit plans or retiree health benefits), limited savings, and/or investment losses. Those who valued work for non-financial reasons derived a sense of identity and purpose through work and appreciated the way in which work kept them socially connected to a larger world. We also found important variations in the kinds of challenges that older New Yorkers faced. For many, the lack of adequate computer skills and/or access to training is a major barrier to remaining competitive on the job or obtaining new jobs. Older adults identified several challenges to employment (continued or new), including the perceived reluctance to hire older workers, the need for skills upgrading, the pressures of balancing work-life issues (e.g., caregiving responsibilities), functional limitations (related to aging or chronic disease), and the desire for “bridge” jobs that supported a gradual transition to eventual retirement.
The view from business experts was also mixed. In the consultations held in 2007 and 2008 prior to the recession, some experts expressed concern about the potential exit of older adults from the workplace and worried about how to replace specific knowledge or skill sets, experience, institutional memory, and excellent work ethic. Others acknowledged struggling with various issues including the recruitment and training needs of older workers, accommodating the changing needs of older employees, restructuring benefits to support more flexibility, facilitating better relationships between multiple generations within the workforce, and creating mechanisms to facilitate the sharing of knowledge between generations of workers.
However, conversations conducted with employers in 2011-2012 indicate that since the recession, their concern about retaining or hiring older workers has noticeably diminished. This is supported by reports since 2009 indicating that employers are less likely to hire older workers than younger workers, and that displaced older workers remain unemployed for far longer periods than younger workers.
Information for this report was derived from a review of recent academic and professional literature from relevant fields (aging, business, organizational theory, psychology, occupational health, and health economics) as well as business and public reports regarding aging, employment, and employer strategies to prepare for an aging workforce. Group consultations were held with thought leaders in various fields including economics, business, aging and workforce development (Appendix A). Further, consultations were conducted with older adults (employed and unemployed); employers; key informants regarding diversity, organizational management, and employee benefits; and business experts in New York City
The New York Academy of Medicine would like to thank the experts, businesses, and organizations who participated in consultations and informed the development of this compendium. We would also like to thank our Age Smart Employer Research Advisory Panel for its leadership and guidance, the Age-friendly NYC Commission for its commitment and support, and the dedicated Age-friendly NYC team, including Dorian Block, Cyril Brosnan, Dana Martens, Caitlyn Smith, and Carolyn Stem. Special thanks to Pensa LLC for their critical contributions, including the design of this compendium and the branding of the Age Smart Employer Awards.
This compendium and the Age Smart Employer awards are funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Ruth Finkelstein, ScD
Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center
Sheila Roher, MPH
The New York Academy of Medicine
Shauneequa Owusu, MS
The New York Academy of Medicine
Age Smart Employer Research Advisory Panel
James Parrott, PhD (Chair)
Fiscal Policy Institute
Kathleen Christensen, PhD
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
David Delong, PhD
David Delong and Associates
Suri Duitch, PhD
City University of New York
Lorrie Foster, MPA
The Conference Board
Michael Hodin, PhD
National Council on Aging
Richard W. Johnson, PhD
The Urban Institute
Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, PhD
The Sloan Center on Aging and Work
Edward Rogoff, PhD
Michael Smyer, PhD