Ahead of the Curve

Posted Wednesday, February 19th, 2014  | Comments (2) rule
Four companies set the pace for age-friendly workplace practices

Ruth Finkelstein, ScD

Senior Vice President for Policy and Planning
The New York Academy of Medicine

Email: rfinkelstein@nyam.org

The New York Academy of Medicine announced the winners of the inaugural Age Smart Employer Awards on February 6. This award program—described in this space last April—honor New York City employers who value workers of all ages. The Age Smart Employer Awards is an initiative of the New York Academy of Medicine and is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The four exemplary winners represent different strengths in Age Smart policies and practices, as well as different sectors, workplace sizes, and boroughs. These organizations are industry leaders ahead of the curve. Let me tell you why the Age Smart Selection Committee chose them.

Montefiore Medical Center, a nationally recognized 1,490-bed health care delivery system in the Bronx, treats more than 90,000 inpatients and employs more than 20,000 people. Montefiore was selected because of the sheer number of its Age Smart practices, combined with particularly exemplary management training regarding the multigenerational work force. Specifically, the hospital’s administrators partner with union leaders to train staff in cultural diversity, including education on how to manage four generations in the workplace. Montefiore also prepares its associates for a “good” retirement and offers reduced work schedules, assignment to special projects, and other strategies to help older workers’ transition into retirement. The hospital also invests in training and development of all workers across all phases of their careers. One example is a six-month program—“School at Work”—that helps associates from ancillary departments learn core health care skills, enabling them to return to school and enter new health care professions.

Pfizer, a global biopharmaceutical company, has 79,000 employees worldwide—more than 3,000 of them in New York City. Pfizer’s “Get Old” campaign challenges and redefines what growing old means and promotes healthy aging in the context of brand and product advertising messages. The company has brought the campaign’s principles into the workplace, engaging employees with comprehensive wellness programs and offering health condition management practices that take into account the unique challenges of aging. Pfizer also has strong mentorship programs and leads in caregiver support programs. For example, Pfizer encourages caregiver-friendly business polices through its cosponsorship of ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time), a multicompany leadership initiative that helps employers understand the difficulties of being a working caregiver. Pfizer’s Mentor Match, another Age Smart practice, connects employees by enabling mentor-mentee partnerships among thousands of employees of all ages and experience levels.

Ristorante Settepani & Settepani Bakery employs 50 people at its two locations in Harlem and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Settepani, like many small businesses, operates more from its owners’ hearts than from a corporate procedures manual. The company’s salient Age Smart employment practice is commitment to treating employees as family, embracing their talents, interests, and aspirations. At Settepani, all employees receive continual training to keep their skills current, with a special focus on new technologies that can have a big impact on the bottom line. The company cross-trains all incoming staff and provides multiple training formats to accommodate workers’ needs.

Renewal Care Partners provides long-term care for people living with chronic and acute health conditions. Based in New York City, the organization has a staff of more than 100. Renewal Care Partners excels in recruiting, training, and using insights from older workers in their roles as caregivers. For example, through robust partnerships with community-based organizations, the organization identifies older adults uniquely qualified to work with older clients. Additionally, it offers external training opportunities and encourages staff to take on greater leadership roles.

This first group of Age Smart Employer winners exemplifies the central tenet of the award: Age Smart policies and practices are good for business, good for employees, and good for the community. I invite you to learn more about the winners by viewing their videos and profiles. Each winner is an industry leader and we are eager for their peers to follow.

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Not Just the Money

Posted Wednesday, February 5th, 2014  | Comments (9) rule
Why record numbers of older workers don’t retire
Elizabeth F. Fideler’s book Men Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job has just been published by Rowman & Littlefield. Its companion—Women Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job—was published in 2012, also by Rowman & Littlefield. Her blog post, “Women Working Late,” appeared on this site in September, 2012.

Elizabeth F. Fideler, EdD
Research Fellow
Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College

Email: lizpaulfideler@mindspring.com

Seniors who are able to keep working and want to do so—who enjoy and get satisfaction from the challenge—deserve to be recognized, understood, and celebrated, especially on the job.

Just last year, the New York Times published profiles of two prominent scientists in their 90s who are still working and contributing to their fields. There’s nutrition scientist Fred Kummerow, age 99, who directs laboratory research at the University of Illinois and publishes papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. And there’s neuropsychologist Brenda Milner, age 95, who studies differences between the left and right brain at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital.

Outliers? Perhaps. But these people are also the leading edge of a new phenomenon: bypassing the conventional age of retirement to continue working.

The average retirement age in the United States has been ticking upwards, from 57 in 1993 to 59 in 2003 and now to 61, according to Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey. Moreover, Gallup found, more than half of those between the ages of 58 and 64 who are still working expect to continue beyond the age of 65. Indeed, the fastest-growing segment of the labor force (by rate of increase) is women who are 65 and older, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Men in this age group are close behind.

Among the reasons for these shifts are the economic downturn, which diminished retirement savings; laws eliminating most mandatory retirement; the gradual increase in the age of eligibility for Social Security; and the fact that many baby boomers entering their 60s are ill-prepared for retirement.

But improvements in health and longevity also play a role, allowing seniors who simply love what they do to keep at it.

Last July, Kimberly Blanton described the surprising results of a recent study in the blog she writes for the Center for Retirement Research, at Boston College. She commented, “By the time people reach their mid-60s, two out of three have retired, either voluntarily or because they’re unable to keep or find a job. By age 75, nine out of ten are out of the labor force. But the minority who do continue working aren’t just survivors—they’re thrivers.” What’s more, she observed, this group is dominated by highly educated, high-achieving professionals who, contrary to stereotypes, are as productive (measured by hourly wages) as younger workers in their prime earning years.

The research I conducted for my two most recent books reveals that mature professional men tend to define themselves, as their fathers did, by what they do for a living and the career goals they have reached. Female professionals who came of age in the same period (from the 1950s to the 1970s) tend to define themselves first in the roles associated with their homes, families, and collegial relationships and then as career women. Other differences, including choice of career field, number of years on the job, and pay inequities, frequently result in greater financial security for older men than for older women.

Now, my research shows, having met disparate traditional educational, social, and economic expectations over the years, mature professional women and men find themselves on the same path in their work lives, blazing it and opening up new territory as they age.

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