Another rant. So you have to read the report but you don't have to like it. That's the MetLife Mature Market Institute (MMI) report on retirees and the gap between wanting to work and actually finding work. Not-so-charmingly titled Buddy can you spare a job?, the implications are of a current and worsening depression-style gap between the 75% of those age 55-70 who, perhaps unrealistically, need to keep working and expect to keep working -- and the 35% of them who have jobs. Doomsayers in the report assert that a) this gap is going to widen between now and 2016, and b) how the problem worsens as boomers age into the 60's and beyond.
And, perhaps triggered by the MMI report, the New York Times today ran a long feature story on age 65+ job seekers, noting that there are 6.6 million in the job market today compared to 4.1 million in 2001. Ironically, their count of the number of age 65+ job seekers who can't find work at half a million, which sounds like a big number unless you compare it to the 15.1 million Americans out of work overall.
Given that the economy has clearly changed since 2001, let's get a few things out on the table:
If we are able, we all need to work at something -- period. In another, perhaps more upbeat report, it is apparent from studies that doing some type of paid work (apparently it doesn't matter how much, self-employed, or whatever) correlates with staying healthy. We have to get over this idea that there is a 'retirement' date where all full-time work ends and then it's golf and lunch dates. If this current 'work gap' finishes that concept off for good, then in my view, it will be for the best.
Some organizations want to help older workers refresh skills - more needed. Between RetirementJobs.com, RetiredBrains.com, and AARP (see this computer help in a Florida job training program), there are resources to help older workers boost skills and find jobs. Additional organizations and websites are welcome -- I will post in the links section of this site.
But the MMI report misses the opportunity. The report spells out the self-defeating issues that retirees bring to the traditional job application process -- I won't belabor them for you. But let's redirect the report's message to boomers into a positive. Small businesses employ half of the workers in the US -- or 44% of the US private payroll. That's firms with fewer than 20 people employing 21.6 million people. So we're talking about all of the shops around the corner, salons, spas, small service businesses, small law offices, accounting firms, medical practices...and local tech services firms. And let's also assert personal service, including hands-on computer and network help is, by its very definition, local.
Volunteering and learning paves the road to work -- not necessarily traditional jobs. This website does not target recent retirees who are seeking work, but nonetheless, I hear from them, especially those considering starting a small tech services firm to help seniors. So add an assignment to these startups -- how about teaching retirees their missing computer skills, then growing a personal network among local small (< 20 people) businesses who need many types of help day-to-day, including tech support, then placing people into first volunteer, then part-time and temporary work assignments? For long time telecom and IT people, that's a good start at mitigating the risk of the dire MMI report landscape for themselves and others.
The healthcare industry is a bright spot on the industry horizon. But it's not just insurance-reimbursed medical care -- it's wellness, alternative medicine, vitamin sales, medical equipment, physical therapy, exercise classes and equipment, and the lengthy supply chain of medical centers, etc. We should be imagining ways to capitalize on this boom and train the not-yet-retired and the recently retired to participate -- not necessarily as nurses or doctors, but as filling gaps here and tasks there to keep all who are able working for pay...and helping others.
More thoughts welcome.