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Older Workers More Of A Force In Nevada And Nationwide


As more of us are living longer, we’re also thinking about extending our working lives.

An estimated 20 percent of seniors work or are looking for work, which is twice as many as 20 years ago.

Of course, there are many reasons for this. It might be a desire to remain active. It could be that finances are dictating a working life beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. It could be a chance to launch a second career that we always dreamed about.

Mark Anderson is the director of the human resources company Nevada Industry Excellence.

He said more people are working past 65 because of better health and because the days of working for one company for life are gone.

"A 65-year-old worker today is not a 65-year-old worker from a generation ago," he said.

Anderson said people have to reinvent themselves and find new careers much more often now than a generation ago. 

With more older people in the workforce, conflicts are arising with younger workers. A new national poll shows that younger workers feel older workers block them from promotions and work at a slower pace. Older workers, on the other hand, say younger workers don't work as hard.

Anderson thinks it is time to reset that paradigm and instead of putting older workers "out to pasture" before they're done with quality work and innovation, they should be paired with younger workers.

 "I think if we were able to put out older innovators together with our younger innovators what a powerful combination," he said.

Beyond that, Anderson believes companies should find more ways to create an "age inclusive workforce," just like there are policies for younger workers like family leave, he thinks employers should find ways to accommodate older workers.

For instance, an accelerated retirement plan or contributions to college funds for grandkids. 

"We need their wisdom. We need their input and they want to be there," he said.

Ann McGinley is a law professor at the Boyd School of Law at UNLV. She believes the divide in the workplace is tied to a cultural divide between people who grew up with a limited amount of technology in their lives and people who have been surrounded by it their whole lives.

She interviewed older lawyers who all said their young colleagues were lazy but then she talked to the younger lawyers.

"I think there is a cultural difference," she said, "I interviewed a bunch of them. And what I found is they all seemed super ambitious but they want to be able to work on their schedules from home, using technology and it's not something the older folks were comfortable or interested in."

Patricia Barnes is an attorney who has written extensively about age discrimination in the workforce. She said the attitude about older workers often comes from management.

"This feeling that they need to be out of the workplace is really sort of a structural thing about employers wanting younger workers, wanting to discriminate in hiring to get a cheaper, more 'attractive' workplace," she said.

Barnes said the economic standing of older people has changed over the years and it is more likely that they need to work to pay the bills. 

David Schmidt is the chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. He said the economic instability is linked to the decline in pensions.

He said during the 70s and through the 90s pensions were paying out so older Americans could leave the workforce and live on retirement payments.

"That share of income has declined from about 1990 to the present," he said, "And as that's declined, there's been an increase in the number of people who are looking for work or working." 


Mark Anderson, Director, Nevada Industry Excellence; Patricia G. Barnes, attorney, journalist, and author;  Ann McGinley, Co-director of the Workplace Law Program, Boyd School of Law/UNLV; David Schmidt, Chief Economist, Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.