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Oregon Businesses Can Benefit from Older Workers

Nearly one in five Americans 65 and older is putting off retirement. (
Nearly one in five Americans 65 and older is putting off retirement. (
March 6, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – A conference today in Portland explores the many advantages of hiring older workers, people with disabilities and veterans.

AARP Oregon is hosting the event on non-traditional workers, a pool of employees that may be going untapped in Oregon's tight labor market.

Unemployment in Oregon is at 4 percent, which might leave some employers struggling to find employees.

Keynote speaker Dr. Kevin Cahill, senior economist at ECONorthwest, says older workers bring many benefits to the table.

"The cohort of the Baby Boomers is much more educated than prior cohorts were," he says. "Older workers have a lifetime of experience; they've just been on planet Earth a lot longer than younger workers, and they bring that to the workplace. There's lots of evidence that older workers are healthier than older workers in the past."

Cahill says many Americans are working longer because there are incentives to do so, there's a decline in how much money people are saving, and people are preparing for longer lifespans than generations past.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler will also speak at the event. ECONorthwest and Easterseals Oregon, a group that provides services for children and adults with disabilities, are co-sponsors of the conference. It begins at 11:30 A.M. at the EcoTrust Building.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, also touts the benefits of older workers, although he says they face many stereotypes that can be barriers to getting hired.

"Given the resources and training, older workers are as capable as anyone of working in today's high-tech workforce," he explains. "And because Americans are living longer, healthier, more active lives, almost 19 percent of individuals 65 and older are now pushing off retirement to do so."

Merkley says the Senior Community Service Employment Program is helping older Americans make ends meet. The federal program helps people 55 and older return to the workforce through paid, on-the-job training. He also says people with disabilities face stereotypes but that these workers actually have a lower turnover rate and higher productivity in the workplace.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR