AARP: It may be harder for older employees to re-enter the workforce


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The coronavirus pandemic has affected people of all ages, but one age group may feel as though the odds are stacked against them.

Susan Weinstock, vice president of financial resiliency at AARP, says based on research conducted during the Great Recession, it will likely be difficult for Americans who are 50 years or older to re-enter the workforce.

“It took them about double the time to find a new job as it did a younger worker,” Weinstock said of those looking for employment both during and immediately after the Great Recession.

Weinstock said it’s a worrisome trend and there isn’t a definitive answer as to why.

“We don’t know, it could be age discrimination, we do know that exists,” Weinstock said. “Sixty percent of people we surveyed who are 45 or older said that they’ve seen or experienced age discrimination in the workforce. Age discrimination is certainly a big problem.”

Weinstock said the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are unfortunate, especially since many Americans enjoy working, even at an older age.

“A lot of people find great satisfaction and great fulfillment from continuing to work, so they were able to do that with labor shortages, but now with the pandemic, obviously everything is turned on its head,” she said.

Gov. Gina Raimondo specifically addressed the 60-and-older crowd during one of her briefings last month. She assured older Rhode Islanders there are no regulations regarding age when it comes to allowing employees to return to work.

 “In no way ever will we do anything to be discriminatory or reduce your chances of keeping a job or getting a job,” she said. “It was just a way to say we want everybody to be safe. So take a minute to pause and think ahead and realize, you know, we’re going to be adapting to this virus for at least a year.”

Even though millions of people across the country have lost their jobs, Weinstock urged everyone not to lose hope. She said there are plenty of companies that will hire fairly, as they all should be.

“We have an employer pledge program, it’s a program where employers – we have over a thousand of them – say ‘We hire based on ability not on age, we affirm the value of older workers and have a multi-generation workforce,'” Weinstock said. “It’s not a heavy lift, it’s the law, but it’s really important that we have a public affirmation of this.”

Weinstock said now is the time to freshen up your resume for when the time comes to search for a new job.

“You’ve got to tailor each resume, it’s a lot of work, but it’s really important,” she said.

Weinstock said she understands many people may be worried about returning to work, which is why it’s important for employers to do what’s best for everyone.

“Employers need to be very thoughtful in how they bring workers back,” she said. “We know that 30-35% of the workforce can work from home remotely, and this might be the time to say, let’s leave that for now, for those who can. Why pack the workplace with people when you don’t need to? And generally, working from home has shown to be working really well.”

For more guidance, visit AARP Rhode Island’s website.

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