Part 1 of 3: The Diversity of Aging – General Life and Workplace Overview

NOTE: This blog contains many useful and interesting links. Explore them!

Several things have happened over the past month to inspire me to now write a blog series about one aspect of diversity – the aging or “mature” population.

• At a Sunday church service I recently attended at Imani Metropolitan Community Church in Durham, NC, “Miss Mildred,” a 93 year-old woman was slowly

Church pastor and author Rev. Marilyn Bowens spoke recently at a church service on the importance of valuing older members of our community.

Church pastor and author Rev. Marilyn Bowens spoke recently at a church service on the importance of valuing older members of our community.

assisted to the keyboard and played two hymns that the congregation sang. After the songs, Imani’s pastor Rev. Marilyn Bowens remarked how so often society simply discards or disregards our older citizens, even when they still have gifts and talents to share with us. Miss Mildred did a wonderful job of playing and she simply glowed as she enjoyed ministering to us through her musical talent.

• In April I was asked to present a short workshop on “The Intersection of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity and the Aging Population” at the Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill, NC. Both the center staff as well as the residents were invited. The session was well attended and both the staff and the residents voiced a desire to welcome and being sensitive to aging same-gender couples who may want to live there. So often same-gender aging couples are invisible or treated poorly at retirement centers. Carol Woods is doing an excellent job welcoming LGBT seniors and even placed an ad in a recent issue of QNotes, North Carolina’s LGBT bi-weekly paper.

• While working with a project of the NC Justice Center (The NC Families Care Campaign), which works across business, religious, healthcare and other communities to advocate for earn paid sick days for all NC workers, Suzanne LaFollette-Black, NC’s Associate State Director of AARP (An Ally for Real Possibilities), spoke about how family issues also hit the more mature people in the workforce who are often sandwiched between caring for teen or grandchildren, and aging parents. She shared several useful resources from AARP. (Several links to be added into part 3)

For the first time, as mature workers stay on the job longer, there are four generations in the work place. In 2002, 14% of the workforce was 55 and older, in 2012 that rose to 19%! While there is now a decrease in the workforce aged 24 – 44, the highest growth rate is among 45 – 54 year olds. Over 50% of workers 45 – 70 state that they plan to work into their 70s. An article in the May 2013 of the the May SHRM (Society of Human Resource Mgt) HR magazine highlighted the growing trend of women to work well into their 60s and beyond.

Several factors such as better health and low returns on retirement investment accounts are contributing to people working longer. And last year I was featured in an articles about the fastest growing area of new entrepreneurs being the 55 – 65 age group (link to article) and about ideal second careers for retiring baby boomers (link to second article.)

In Part 2, I will further explore the intersection of LGBT and Aging Diversity, and in Part 3 I will expound on ways companies can benefit from older employees, some things they can do and also the importance of succession planning as older employees do actually retire. I will also add several links to useful resources.