by Teri Fritsma

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, nearly 20% of the American population will be 65 or older, compared to just 12.4% in 2000.  As these workers retire, the U.S. could face serious worker and skill shortages.  Even in the midst of today’s record high unemployment, some firms are getting the jump on this threat by introducing senior-friendly policies and work arrangements.  Based on a recent report from the Urban Institute, here are eight features that mature workers can look for in their company that make it easier to continue working later in life.



  • Flexible work hours — such as four 10-hour days in a week, or shifting work hours to earlier or later in the day — can give mature workers more control over their schedule, enabling them to manage their personal obligations (such as attending to aging parents or scheduling medical appointments), or simply give them more flexibility to travel or pursue hobbies.


  • Part-time schedules allow older workers the option to phase into retirement and have more time off.


  • Job sharing (an arrangement where two people share the duties of a single job) can help older workers extend their careers by working more flexible hours and perhaps training or mentoring younger employees.  Employers can also benefit from this arrangement because two people sharing a job may have a more diverse skill set.


  • Some companies offer policies that allow mature workers to change jobs within the company.  Some older workers may wish to stay with the company but transfer to a lower-intensity position.  Others might be tired of the same tasks they’ve been doing for years and be interested in a new challenge.  Some companies recognize this and have begun to create options for older employees to transfer into “career deceleration” positions or mentoring programs that allow older workers to train or teach newer employees.


  • Telecommuting options can be especially attractive to older workers who have difficulty driving or have impairments that limit their mobility.


  • Some companies have begun to introduce snowbird programs that allow older workers to move between two locations seasonally or reduce hours or stop working completely during certain months of the year.  This policy may be appealing to mature workers who want to spend the winter months in a warmer climate.  It can also benefit company if business is seasonal.


  • Firms that hire former employees as independent contractors may be attractive to older workers in two ways.  First, independent contractors may have more control over their schedules, may be able to work less than 40 hours per week, and may be able to telecommute.  Second, retired independent contractors are usually more free than employees to access pension benefits (if they have them).


  • Phased retirement plans, such as age-neutral pensions or Deferred Retirement Option Plans (DROPs)  make it easier for employees to continue working beyond normal retirement age.  Some mature workers would prefer to continue working part-time, but can’t afford to without access to some or all of their retirement benefits.  Yet federal law restricts employers’ ability to pay benefits from defined benefits packages.  As a result, some companies use formal or informal phased retirement options that get around these restrictions and allow older employees to draw on pension or retirement benefits while continuing to work.

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