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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the August 21, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Why Business Should Be Senior Sensitive

Baby boomers are aging. For forward-thinking companies,

this means that the needs of their older workers can not be ignored.

In a number of government agencies, 40 percent of all employees are

over 50. For many utility companies the figure is higher still. In

the pharmaceutical industry, it is 35 to 40 percent; in healthcare,

over 50 percent.

What will employers do in 5 to 10 years if those workers decide to

head for the links en masse? In five years, 27.6 percent of the

workforce

will be over 50. During that same time period, the labor force is

projected to grow just .1 percent. "There will be 150 million

jobs by 2006, but only 141 million people to fill them," says

Marian Stoltz-Loike, a psychologist (B.A., Harvard; Ph.D., NYU)

who consults on work and family issues to companies. Her firm, called

SeniorThinking, consults to companies on how to be senior-friendly

and how to get the most out of an intergenerational workforce.

On Tuesday, August 27, at 7 p.m. she gives a workshop on how to

"Supercharge

Your Career" at the Lawrence Center for Mind-Body-Spirit at 1213

Lawrence Road. Cost: $50. Call 609-730-1049.

While her workshop is aimed at the aging workers (see Continuing

Education

beginning on page 8 of this issue), Stoltz-Loike also offers advice

to companies dealing with these senior workers. Companies, she says,

need to look at little details as well as the big picture. "Look

at your website," she says. Is the print small, perhaps a 10-point

font? If so, it may be hard for older workers to read, sending a

subtle

signal that their needs are not important. A less subtle signal

emanates

from company brochures that use only 20-somethings as models.

On the grander scale, she suggests that work teams mix Boomers with

younger workers. The younger workers gain knowledge from the mature

workers’ experience, and the Boomers keep up with the latest

technology,

jargon, and trends coming out of universities and graduate schools.

As the huge Boomer generation nears retirement age, companies may

benefit from instituting phased retirement. Yes, many Boomers want

to keep working, but perhaps not full time. A plan that allows some

to scale back to four days, and then three, or two, before retiring

keeps their expertise in-house.

An issue in phased retirement, says Stoltz-Loike, is pensions.

Adjustments

may have to be made to allow for the lower salaries those in phased

retirement will earn. Still, she says, this shouldn’t be a huge

hurdle,

especially because so many companies have abandoned traditional

pensions

for 401 (k) plans.


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