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Living Stronger, Earning Longer: Redefining Retirement in the 21st Century

Testimony Before the Senate Special Committee on Aging

AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 Program annually honors companies and organizations whose practices and policies address the needs of an aging workforce. A variety of factors are considered in selecting winners including:

  • an employer's recruiting practices;
  • opportunities for training, education, and career development;
  • workplace accommodations;
  • alternative work options, such as flexible scheduling;
  • health and pension benefits; and,
  • the age of the workforce.

Best employers are those that:

  • Place an emphasis on the attraction and retention of the right workforce. This is particularly relevant for industries that are currently experiencing labor shortages such as healthcare, utilities, education, and engineering.
  • Offer programs to support the maturing workforce.
  • Show appreciation for longer service, recognize mature worker issues, and support family care needs.
  • Sponsor formal or informal arrangements allowing long-tenured and older employees to reduce work hours without jeopardizing their benefits.
  • Emphasize career-long training.

AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 continues to increase its visibility and value in the business community. In 2004, AARP compiled the best practices among our 2002-2004 winners in a report called, "Staying Ahead of the Curve 2004." This compendium has gained national attention, resulting in major trade associations including best practices in their national conference agenda. The Best Employers program has also received much media attention. We have found that repeat applicants have added additional employee benefits as a result of reviewing the "feedback reports" that are sent to them after final results are tabulated. These changes include additional flexible work schedules, more training opportunities, and recruiting retirees to fill temporary assignments.

In order to further address the aging of the workforce, AARP has established a national conference that will address business solutions for an aging society. The conference will showcase employers who have successfully adopted policies and practices for a mature workforce addressing the "business case" for why a company should dedicate the time and resources to this issue. We have invited participants that represent various interests in this issue including opinion leaders, policymakers, academia, business, government, advertisers, and executives.

AARP will issue a report this fall addressing the value workers age 45 and older bring to American business. This study will be the first of its kind to provide cost comparisons of hiring/retaining an age 50 and older worker versus someone younger in the areas of health, productivity, training, flexible work arrangements, turnover, and other factors. This resource is intended to help business focus on long-range planning to determine their workforce needs, where there will be gaps in the labor force, and how these gaps will be addressed.

AARP will focus more attention on assisting individual industries with their labor force issues. We recognize that different industries have needs and challenges that are unique. We have engaged in conversations with national trade associations who are interested in partnering with AARP to establish industry-specific forums across the country.

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