55-plus: The work force needs us and here’s why

Becoming a senior may be unsettling to some, but all agree that the general population is aging. On Jan. 1, 2011, the very first baby boomer turned 65, and over the next 17 years, there will be more than 10,000 baby boomers following them every single day. That means, according to the AARP, by the year 2015 those aged 50 and older will represent 45 percent of the U.S. population. Why is this an important statistic? Let’s take a look.

Seniors throughout their careers have become adaptive to the situation at hand. This is a trait their younger counterparts will take years to learn. Teri Bath, marketing manager for the Garden Shop at Caughlin Ranch, agrees, “Seniors are a different element. They take pride in their work, they’re responsible, and most live by the golden rule.” Bath continues, “Seniors know work ethics: on time and dedicated, something they were raised with.”

But that is just one of the many reasons why seniors are the next big resource for small business.

• Due to baby boomer retirements, corporations expect to have a severe shortage in talent, providing more senior employment opportunities for those not ready to retire.

• Boomers have $2 trillion of annual spending power. Many of your customers are senior, and seniors are more comfortable and loyal buying from people their own age. According to the ICSC.org (International Council of Shopping Centers), the 55-plus age group controls more than three-quarters of America’s wwealth. Are you selling nationwide? That’s 41,762,000 potential over-65 customers. (U.S Census)

• Hiring seniors shows an interest in serving the local market. Hiring a senior makes your company stand out. Seniors attract senior customers and this could be big business – 63,640 potential over-65 customers in Washoe County, your backyard.

• Seniors are usually more reliable. They are through with job-jumping and children to take care of. They are loyal while going the extra mile for their employer.

• Seniors have more experience, period, end of sentence. What experience you may ask? They have been through many issues and survived. They know how to handle imperfect employers and rude customers with dignity and grace. Learned early, taking care of a customer is of prime importance.

• Getting the job done with little supervision? Seniors excel, while their younger counterparts are still in the learning cycle.

• Throughout their career, seniors have learned valuable lessons that the new, young hire may not learn for a decade. Because of their experience, seniors can mentor younger workers and teach essential skills.

• Seniors are eligible for Medicare and don’t need added health insurance. For small business, the cost savings can be large.

• Seniors are open to part time employment, job sharing and per-diem work without the cost of sick days, vacation pay and matching 401(k) contributions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately one third of your employee expenses are benefits such as health insurance, and these costs should be factored in when you are considering adding employees.

• Seniors have spent years training. They come into a company ready to produce. A tremendous cost savings to the small business owner.

• Seniors comprise approximately 28 percent of the U.S. population today, and as stated above, will quickly grow to 45 percent in the next two years. It is smart business to have a senior as part of your staff.

“Seniors are the next huge contribution to the workforce,” Teri Bath adds. ”Employers will not have to pay for medical insurance and that alone is a huge advantage.”

As a mentor for SCORE-reno.org, I see many senior clients who are continuing to work or starting a new business, all looking forward to their next vital endeavor. Although some perceive seniors to have a technology weakness, I don’t find this to be true. According to Inc. Magazine, “Internet users over age 50 are flocking to social media. A 2012 Pew Internet & American Life Project study revealed that 70 percent of web-oriented seniors go online every day.

The future holds not only financial benefits for working seniors but for the small business as well. The versatile part-time status the senior can work, the bond with the perspective clients, reduced cost of employment and stellar work ethics are all valid reasons for the small business owner to consider hiring seniors.

Judy Haar is a mentor with the Reno office of SCORE, a business assistance program funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Contact her through www.judyhaar.com


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