Changing the Narrative Releases Report on Older Adults in the COVID Era Workforce

(DENVER, CO)  Changing the Narrative, a Colorado-based campaign to increase understanding of ageism and to shift how people think about aging,  today released a report about the experiences of adults age 50+ in the workforce during the COVID era.

The “50+ Colorado Workforce Survey” is based on a survey of over 1,200 Coloradans age 50+ who were working, are working, are now looking or will be looking for work. Respondents are a diverse group representing a wide range of demographics from 60 Colorado counties. The survey gathered information about the characteristics, motivations, and challenges adults have encountered in the workforce and when applying for jobs. 

This information is crucial as state and national economies struggle to recover after a year of slowdown during the pandemic and workers of all ages try to reenter the workforce. Nationally, unemployment for workers age 55 and older more than doubled between February 2020 and February.*

The report reveals the strengths that workers age 50+ bring to the workforce and what support they may need to be successful.

“Our intent is that this report will be used to help inform programming and shape policies designed to assist people age 50+ gain access to meaningful work that fully uses their talents and abilities,” said Janine Vanderburg, Director of Changing the Narrative. “As the economy begins to return to normal, people will be seeking work and needing resources to do so. Now that we better understand the common characteristics, experiences, and needs of adults age 50+ impacted by COVID-19, we can inform  employers, the state, local counties, workforce development centers, and nonprofits as they design solutions and programs that will help people age 50+ get back to work, benefitting older adults, employers, and Colorado’s economy.

“Importantly, we can use this information to help decision-makers form policies around workplace discrimination.”

Some of the highlights from the report:

  • One-half of the respondents said they are actively looking for work; 73% of those are looking for full-time work, but some of those are also open to part-time or contract work

  • When respondents looking for work were asked why they wanted to be in the workforce, the top reasons were the need to sustain daily living (78%); the need to increase retirement security (76%); seeking purpose through work (74%); and seeking “security against uncertainty” (70%).

  • Of respondents who reported that they were looking for work, 50% indicated they were interested in changing careers or industries.

  • Internship or “returnship” opportunities—internship-like programs for experienced workers seeking to reenter the workforce after an extended period, particularly in a new line of work—were rated as useful by 37% of respondents overall and higher among those who were Black or African American (56%) and those who made less than $25k in annual income (49%)

  • Career services and supports such as “paid certifications” were rated as useful by 55% of respondents overall, and by 72% among Black respondents.

  • While the negative effects of the COVID pandemic have been felt by all demographic groups age 50+ across Colorado, results indicate respondents approaching retirement are more likely to have experienced these negative effects on their working status.

“Given the demographic shifts of declining birthrates and extended life spans, employers will need and want to tap the talent and expertise of every generation,” continued Vanderburg. “We have an opportunity as a state to lead in re-envisioning what the workforce and our talent pipelines can look like to strengthen our economy now and into the future.”

More information is available here:

An infographic and summary are here:

* Based on an AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) analysis of federal data.

More information on federal legislation and statistics from the AARP are available here:

Changing the Narrative Colorado is a campaign to shift the way people think, talk and act about aging, ageism and older adults and is a partnership of NextFifty Initiative and Rose Community Foundation

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