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Why an aging population should be seen as an economic boon

An aging population is an untapped opportunity for economic growth

By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Renew Senior Communities
Aging Americans make valuable contributions to the U.S. economy, yet ageism remains a major obstacle for them in the workplace.
Aging Americans make valuable contributions to the U.S. economy, yet ageism remains a major obstacle for them in the workplace.
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Free web talk on how aging Americans impact the economy

What: Web talk series about why the aging population will help the economy, presented presented by Renew Senior Communities, in partnership with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and The Aspen Times.

Who: Co-hosted by Christopher Farrell, senior economics contributor, Marketplace and Minnesota Public Radio; author of “Purpose and a Paycheck, Unretirement, The New Frugality;” and Lee Tuchfarber, CEO of Renew Senior Communities.

When: July 29, 3 to 4 p.m.

Where: Register online at http://www.renewsenior.com.

There are roughly 117.4 million people over the age of 50 in the United States, of which about 52 million are over the age of 65. By 2060, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates that about 95 million Americans will be over the age of 65.

Some economic analysts view an aging population as a detriment to economic growth, but positive factors among an aging population such as longevity, valuable work experience and a continued desire to work could actually mean the opposite. 

Christopher Farrell, senior economics contributor for American Public Media's Marketplace.
Christopher Farrell, senior economics contributor for American Public Media’s Marketplace.

“Older people are an underappreciated asset in the U.S. economy,” said Christopher Farrell, senior economics contributor for American Public Media’s Marketplace and author of “Purpose and a Paycheck, Unretirement, The New Frugality.” 

Farrell is the guest co-host of a July 29 web talk series about why the aging population will help the economy, presented by Renew Senior Communities, in partnership with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and The Aspen Times. 

“There is the concept that the older adult population declines in their value to society, and this is untrue,” said Lee Tuchfarber, CEO of Renew Senior Communities. “That is an entrenched belief, but the script ought to be flipped. People want to contribute to society no matter what age they are.”

Fighting ageism in the workplace

Age discrimination in the workplace cost the U.S economy $850 billion in 2018, according to an AARP report, “The Economic Impact of Age Discrimination.” While many employers recognize older employees’ desire to continue working, few employers are actually taking the steps to create work environments that are responsive to the needs of workers of all ages, according to the report. 

Age discrimination includes less favorable treatment of older people in hiring processes and employment, underempoloyment — such as working jobs or earning wages that are beneath an older person’s qualification level, and longer periods of unemployment. 

Lee Tuchfarber, CEO of Renew Senior Living.
Lee Tuchfarber, CEO of Renew Senior Living.

“Just because you’re 65 doesn’t mean you’re brain-dead and don’t have anything to offer,” Farrell said. “We have to create better opportunities for older people.”

Older adults are healthier, better educated and more productive than previous generations, Farrell said, adding that there’s been an explosion of self-employment and entrepreneurship among older people in recent years. 

“You have knowledge and experience, and you know how to solve a problem,” he said. “Startup costs are relatively low if your office is at home or in a co-sharing space — and you don’t have to get through human resources and an ageist management.”

Creating better opportunities for aging Americans

Rather viewing older adults as a drain on the economy, Farrell said more work opportunities that tap into their skills, knowledge and experience could deliver a boon. 

“We all want to be useful, and one way is to continue to tap into our skills,” he said. 

That means creating opportunities for more flexibility, such as part-time work, and rethinking accessibility to ongoing training and education. 

“Someone who graduates from college today can anticipate having a 60 to 70-year career,” Farrell said. 

Longevity research shows that a sense of purpose in life is strongly related to a person’s risk of dying. One study published in the journal JAMA Network Open found that purposeful living is associated with lower mortality from all causes. 

Work is one way people experience living with purpose. Other examples include spending time with family, belonging to something such as a church or social group, and volunteering.

“One way Renew (Senior Communities) would like to get involved is by creating volunteer opportunities for older adults,” Tuchfarber said. “Intensive volunteering is a concept that is conducive to wellness, physically and cognitively, and also conducive to adding value to society. People want to do things that matter, and that’s consistent with this concept of purposefulness.” 


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