Chamber News & Notes: Demand for older workers on the rise |

Chamber News & Notes: Demand for older workers on the rise

Ronni Hannaman
Johnelle Jackson, 78, has worked as a personal shopper for the Topsy Lane Walmart for a year.
Ronni Hannaman

Gray hair and a few smile lines are now quite OK if you’re searching for a job.

Many employers are hiring older workers to fill jobs once held by much younger — or entry level — workers because it’s all about work ethic and being able to count on a body to fill the time slot than the age of the employee. In other words, older workers show up on time and willingly do the job to which they have been assigned.

Age discrimination has become a thing of the past for many large chains. Energetic Johnelle Jackson will turn 78 the end of September and loves to work. She is a personal shopper at the Topsy Lane Walmart and shows up at 5:30 a.m. ready to work. Currently, she works 40 hours a week, but would work more if she could. When asked why she chose Walmart as an employer, she responded with a big smile, “They like older people!” Next time you shop the Topsy Lane Walmart, just may see Jackson along with her big blue cart choosing items ordered online.

The salary in workplaces such as Walmart, Home Depot, McDonald’s and other national chains begin around $11 per hour and offer flextime to those who request it. Though many of these jobs are part-time and without benefits, the extra cash, flexible hours, and ability to be a part of the workforce make this a great opportunity for retirees who need a few extra dollars to make ends meet at a time when costs continue to rise. As a reminder, Nevada’s minimum wage without health benefits is $8.25 — so some of those retail businesses so maligned are paying a full $2.75 per hour over the minimum wage.

Once upon a time, it was expected to see teens working summers, weekends or after school within retail and fast food chains to earn a few extra dollars and gain needed work experience. Those times are long gone. You’ll still see young, fresh faces at McDonald’s because of their Archways to Opportunity education program providing tuition assistance after 90 days of consecutive employment.

Today, older workers are working jobs once reserved for the young and are having a good time being back in the workplace. That 16-21 year old life guard of yesteryear – the one all tanned and blonde and buff – today could be the 85 year old in Bradenton, Florida, or the 73-year old at Tobay Beach in Long Island. Any job that may not be too demanding physically can be filled by an older worker- even in the manufacturing industry.

“Older workers are often branded as burned out and not technically savvy,” says Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. He further asserts, “Older workers have lower rates of absenteeism, less turnover, better job performance and adapt well to new technology.” So, those old dogs can learn new tricks after all!

Today, there is new focus on recruiting retirees back to the workplace or keeping them from retiring. A Transamerica survey found “More than half of Americans expect to work past age 65 or don’t plan to retire. They are healthier and living longer. And many need the extra income after enduring long layoffs in the recession.” About 20 percent of Americans 65 and over are working or looking for a job, up from 15.4 percent in 2006, according to the Labor Department and AARP.

Bloomberg Business reporter Ben Steverman writes, “More and more Americans are spending their golden years on the job,” His research shows there’s a growing number of seniors 70+ still working, indicating older Americans are active, alert, healthier and not ready to call it quits.

Another interesting concept espoused by CNN Money writer Lydia DePillis is that the economy needs seniors to fill jobs because workers in their prime aren’t able to work due to the “Opioid epidemic, mass incarceration, and unaffordable child care that forces many parents to stay home.”

The notion that those over 65 are sitting back in their loungers watching TV enjoying a lazy life is far from true. Even those not working, volunteer or are heavily involved in their community and are productive.

Workers over 66 who receive social security and Medicare benefits are still paying into the system as is their employer, thus they continue to contribute to their own retirement.