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State workforce aging fast

Tamara Chuang
Colorado Sun

In three months, there will be more people age 60 and older living in Colorado than residents younger than 18. That’s according to the 2023 population estimate from the state demographer’s office, shared this week by Gov. Jared Polis during a conference about employing older workers. 

Colorado’s median age is getting higher — 37.2 in 2020, up from 36.1 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census — and adults are working longer. The day-long Age-Inclusive Management Strategies conference tackled misperceptions of older employees and also how employers can keep them in the labor force.

Polis didn’t dwell on the kids during the AIMS conference on age inclusivity, held Wednesday in Denver.



“Our workforce is really our greatest asset here in Colorado,” Polis said. “We want to continue to expand that talent pool, bringing home-grown talent into the fold and that includes Coloradans of all ages. And, it comes as no surprise that as people live longer, many people need to, or want to, or benefit from working later into their lives. My parents are 77, and both work fulltime. My grandmother worked into her 80s.”

The state has been preparing for an older population for a few years now, establishing departments like the Office of Future Work in 2019, creating a program that requires most employers to set up retirement plans for workers and walking the talk with its own 31,000 employees statewide by testing out pilot programs to prioritize workers with disabilities or grant veterans early priority to job listings. 




Rick Guzzo, cofounder of Mercer’s Workforce Sciences Institute, said that in a survey of about 8,000 workers around the globe, 84% expect to work past normal retirement age. Most said it was to stay mentally sharp, but a similar percent said it was to stay busy or because they needed the money. That left just 16% who planned to retire at age 65, or whatever age they considered as retirement.

But, Guzzo’s point wasn’t that people were working past 65. Rather, it was to show employers the benefits of the older worker. Mercer looked at “thousands and thousands” of employee performance reviews and found that older workers were rarely highly rated, at least compared to younger peers. So, Mercer looked deeper into the reviews to determine what was the impact of age and experience on business results. 

The report found that age had a neutral impact on a company’s financial performance. It was tenure, or an employee’s experience, that had a significant positive effect on the company’s performance.

What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column about surviving in today’s economy. Email tamara@coloradosun.com with stories, tips or questions.