As one of the first in-person events in the aging community to have its kick-off since the pandemic kept us all in isolation, the American Society on Aging 2022 conference has been in New Orleans this past week. This year’s theme was focused on Advancing Economic Security with keynote speakers, sessions, workshops, and aging professionals speaking on ASA’s five key thematic areas of Justice & Equity, Innovation & Social Impact, Health & Well-Bing, Economic Security, and Ageism & Culture. The Event began on April 11th with a total of over 369 sessions running through April 14th plus a pavilion full of organizations, working towards improvements in aging in a variety of diverse ways.
Most of the sessions focused on one of three key areas of Advancing Economic Security: job opportunities, equity for aging in place, and the economics of caregiving.
Many sessions spoke on older workers in the US from opportunities to reskill to ageism and the importance of continuing to work - for many to afford to survive. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated that “The most critical and widespread challenge facing businesses is the inability to hire qualified workers for open jobs they need to fill.” Considering there are more than 15 million American retirees between the ages of 55 and 70 and many of them (at least 6.4%) looking for jobs, there is an opportunity here. The session Advancing Economic Security through Reskilling and Upskilling Older Workers featured key insights on this through Sheri Rose of Thrive, Senior Yahoo Columnist Kerry Hannon, Mary Furlong of Mary Furlong & Association, Greg Olsen the NY State Office for the Aging Director sharing NY-specific statistics on the impact of older workers on the economy in the state of NY and Lawrence Kosick and Judy Stelling of GetSetUp sharing their learning experiences from the past two years of upskilling and reskilling older workers.
Olsen highlighted how older workers are a vital segment of the NY economy citing:
While there are many hurdles to older adults working, the most prevalent being ageism Kosick and Stelling went on to prove that older workers not only offer experience and skills but are also perfectly capable of mastering new technologies. Stelling who directs a department of over 30 older adults who are 50+, states that the biggest obstacle that older workers face is confidence and limited opportunities to upskill and acquire the necessary tech skills. GetSetUp the company she works for has invested over $1.1 million dollars in their content creators since Jan 2021 who are all older adults (50+).
Stelling has noted throughout this time some keys to successfully integrating older workers into new tech areas:
Senior Columnist at Yahoo Kerry Hannon recently wrote In Control at 50+: How to Succeed in the New World of Work. She will share insights on hurdles and opportunities for people looking to work after 50 in an Exclusive Author Interview with ASA CEO Peter Kaldes. Noteworthy among these insights was that a total of 26 states and Washington, DC announced raises in the minimum wage with many employers adding cash bonuses and making efforts to offer elder and child caregiving help as part of their benefits packages. She highlighted some positive shifts in the world of work that older workers should know about:
People are living longer, healthier lives and many of them don’t plan to ever stop working. That means the norm will be people in the workplace who are in their 70s and 80s creating workplaces full of positively improving multigenerational synergies.
As people are living longer and healthier lives many of them do not want to leave their homes and prefer to age in place. Plus the cost of senior living communities is beyond the budget of many aging adults. An increase in technology to help create more equity and alleviate the caregiving burden is helping to address some of these needs.
Ginna Baik from Amazon spoke at the event on Why Voice Tech is the Great Equalizer highlighting the fact that voice-enabled technologies like the Alexa are supporting older adults. According to Ginna not only are older adults leaning into voice tech but they are using it in a variety of diverse ways. Voice tech can be used to amplify safety and well-being by turning on lights (prior to rising) to help prevent falls, giving medication and appointment reminders, and reminding people of classes and opportunities to connect virtually for fitness, mental enrichment, and socialization.
Amazon is not the only company to recognize that aging well will require design thinking for new trends and technologies that will shape the future. The Design Thinking and Aging session shared insights into trends in the technology shaping tomorrow from Dr. Thomas Kamber of OATS, Deidre Lee from the AARP, and Steve Ewell of Consumer Technology Association Foundation. Not only did they discuss key consumer electronics from the 2022 CES event, but they also shared the technologies that you should know about for older adults.
These are just a few of the up-and-coming technologies built to improve the lives of older adults. The growth in this sector will only increase as businesses understand the importance of this demographic.
Caregiving affects everyone whether they are a caregiver or not. Caregivers are employees all around you and many of them struggle with finances, due to their caregiving roles, and as this becomes more and more impactful it will be essential that businesses step up to create impact here. The Economics Aspects of Family Caregiving shared insights from Richard Eisenberg former editor of Next Avenue, Amy Goyer AARP Family and Caregiving Expert, Jason Resendez Executive Director UsAgainst Alzheimer’s, and Ms. Whiting on the economics of caregiving. They called attention to the need for policies and attitudes to change around caregiving and the role this plays in employees' lives.
Debbie Howard and Jon Brody of Corporate Caregiver Camps shared ways for companies to actually implement this in their session on Improving the Economic Security of Working Family Caregivers - and the Companies Who Employ Them. At least 30% of every workforce across all age groups, genders, and pay grades are employee caregivers. US companies are losing US$68 billion per year on caregiver-related costs (i.e. absenteeism, turnover, and higher healthcare costs going forward); this number will more than double by 2050.
With 369+ sessions at the ASA event, there were many subject areas covered on ways for aging to improve. These are just a couple of key areas that all of our organizations should be thinking about integrating, in order to help Advancing Economic Security for the older adults in our lives.
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How older workers are a benefit to the workplace and are supporting the economy through longer careers.
"Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too old to learn it!" said Mary Ellen who has been learning technology and new hobbies through GetSetUp.
Gale has learned new skills that have supported her paid work and volunteering. Both ensure her quality of life and job satisfaction is high.