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

Testimony Before the Senate Special Committee on Aging

AARP's Workforce Initiative grew out of the partnership between the AARP Foundation and Home Depot to attract and retain mature workers. The initiative builds on the partnership's work - educating businesses on the value of retaining their existing older workforce and recruiting mature workers, and delivering much needed resources, information, and employment opportunities to workers age 50 and older to help them remain on the job. The Featured Employers portion of the program helps companies develop and execute strategies to effectively recruit, retain and manage an older workforce.

III. Research

Boomer retirement survey. Last year AARP released a follow up survey to the 1998 "Baby Boomers Envision Their Retirement." AARP undertook to discover how the Boomer generation has progressed in planning for retirement. Seventy-nine percent of Boomers surveyed said they plan to work in some capacity during their retirement years. Thirty percent of Boomers surveyed for the 2004 report plan to work for enjoyment while 25% plan to work for the income. When it comes to preparing for their retirement, 61% of Boomers were confident in their ability to do so, while only 39% agreed that Boomers were saving more for retirement than the previous generation. Five years closer to retirement in the 2004 survey, Boomers report that 70% of them contributed to IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement savings accounts, and 69% were satisfied with the amount of money they were setting aside for retirement.

Self-Employment. In 2004, AARP published a substantial study of the older self-employed population. While it was well-known that older workers are more likely to be self-employed than their younger counterparts, considerably less was known about workers who became self-employed later in life compared to those who had been self-employed for much or all of their lives. This study, conducted for AARP by RAND, found that nearly one-third of older self-employed workers made the transition to self-employment at or after age 50. A follow-up study underway is examining the nature of the work of older self-employed workers and the transition in and out of self-employment at ages 50 and above. It is also looking at the wealth accumulation of the self-employed, the type of assets in which wealth is held, the distribution of wealth across these assets and the consequences of shifts to self-employment for retirement assets.

Older Worker Training. In a global economy with rapidly changing technology, workers of all ages must keep their skills up to date in order to remain competitive. Older workers are at particular risk of skills obsolescence as they tend to be underrepresented in employer-provided training programs. "Older Worker Training-What We Know and Don't Know" examines older workers and training/retraining. It is focusing on:

  • The ability to learn at older ages;
  • Learning variability within the older population;
  • Knowledge about on-the-job training vs. training in experimental settings;
  • Training for 21st century skills (i.e., the relevance of research on training to jobs older workers might be interested in today);
  • The impact of the " healthy worker " phenomenon on training success;
  • Age comparisons in the length of time it takes to learn new skills; and
  • Whether successful training techniques vary by age.

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