Working Life Begins at 65

Discussion
Jun 01, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


If you want to get ahead in retailing today, maturity is a definite asset. Of course, the definition of mature has changed somewhat over the years. In the past, it meant that
workers were beyond high school age. Today, it is just as likely to suggest you’re receiving your Social Security check.


Don Kuepker, reports the Providence Journal, is among the more mature workers making their mark in retailing.


Mr. Kuepker is 79 years of age and he’s been working 14 to 24 hours a week at Home Depot for six years.


“I did my garden, my yard for a little while, played some golf,” he said. “But at the end of the summer, I could see the walls closing in on me. I found I have to be doing something.
I have to keep my mind and body active, because if you don’t, you lose it.”


Mr. Kuepker is not alone. According to projections from the AARP, 25 percent of the workforce in 2010 will be made up of individuals 50 years of age or older.


“It will be a very different work force,” said Emily Allen, AARP’s director of work force programs.”


According to Ms. Allen, companies are actively recruiting older workers and retired individuals because they understand the value of experience in business performance.


CVS is one of those companies. “It’s good business,” said Steven Wing, director of the drugstore chain’s government programs. “The population is aging, and we want our employee
demographics to look like the demographics of our customers.”


Anne Roman, a spokesperson for Borders, agrees with Mr. Wing.


“One thing that makes older workers particularly attractive is the life skills and knowledge they can bring to our stores,” she said. “We have found that where staff is most
reflective of the make up of a community that sales are better, and since half of all book sales are made by people who are 45 plus, it helps to have people like them serving
them.”


Companies have found that being flexible is key to attracting and retaining older workers.


While at 49, Paula SanSouci qualifies as a regular youngster, she takes part in the CVS snowbird program. Working as a pharmacist, Ms. SanCouci spends summers working near her
home in New England while, during the winter, she works in sunny Florida.


“I’m sure in the long run it helps retain people,” she said. “There is such a shortage of pharmacists, they’ll do anything to keep them in the work force.”


Moderator’s Comment: Most retail companies talk about the key role that older workers can play in the store environment. Is that just a politically correct
way of saying advancement up the corporate ladder is out of the question? Would retail businesses attract and retain more seniors if workers saw a way to get ahead and not simply
act as greeters or store clerks?
– George Anderson – Moderator

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10 Comments on "Working Life Begins at 65"


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Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

“I don’t ever want to stop working — I just want to stop having to…”
Benjamin Franklin

Seniors are working for one of two reasons: a) they have to to make ends meet, or b) they want to to stay active and engaged. My question would be: “Are seniors really interested in positions beyond the store level?”

I would think those seniors who can generally choose a place to live before they choose a place to work. And that may not be near a corporate HQ. Also, I think most of us are looking forward to days of less stress and responsibility, not more.

John Hyman
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

It’s hard enough to find a knowledgeable, full-time employee at a department store today. But no wonder why – Seniors must work fewer hours to avoid loss of Social Security and other benefits, and this allows stores to pay lower wages and provide little or no medical benefits. This must be a huge cost savings to the retailer.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
14 years 9 months ago
Depending on the product, a mature sales force can definitely help make the sale for a retailer. There are the obvious situations such as the pharmacy where no one wants to talk about illnesses and ailments with a strapping “20 something” staffer. But I believe there are many other situations where the ability to relate to the customer’s perspective is key to selling the product. This includes situations where the product is familiar, but changing. I am thinking of automobiles, furniture, electronics, etc. where the ability to relate it to something the customer has experience with can reduce the anxiety over the purchase decision. Traditionally this has come from “branding” but as many more manufacturers have moved into the scene it requires a savvy sales person to convince a customer who has always bought a certain brand to try a different one. The salesperson must know both their brand and the one familiar to the customer so they can correlate and distinguish the features of the new brand from the old. Only someone who has… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Peers of my age with the good sense not to be journalists have salted away enough money to retire, and are doing so in great numbers. A few of them have taken retail store level jobs. They don’t want any further responsibility, and I think that’s typical. One retired engineer friend is actually a Wal-Mart greeter. They kept trying to promote him, with generous offers. He said he’d quit if they asked him one more time. They’ve stopped trying. I know I’ll be cut from the same cloth. When I retire, at age 87 I figure, I’m going to try to find work as a bagger, but only if there’s no opportunity for advancement.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
14 years 9 months ago

Are we missing something? Sure senior citizens would be a breath of fresh air at store level. These individuals could better engage the shoppers and give the politeness and service skills that are lacking.

Side Bar: Retailers need to educate young employees on such skills! But, there are various excuses why this isn’t occurring.

Back to the issue at hand. There are companies in general that are rethinking and hiring the gray hairs, or 65ish individuals for corporate positions, given their strengths in: a) decision making) knowledge, and c) experience. The flip side of this coin is the younger managers lack intensity, knowledge and a skill set that is ideal for today’s brutal retail environment and competitive landscape.

Shame on companies who don’t “smell the roses” of valued 65ish individuals. Hmmmmmmmmm

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Borders and Home Depot are serious about their store position outreach to seniors. They are the only two major retailers who partner with the AARP in the recruitment. As far as non-store positions are concerned, what retailer has reached out to seniors?

Desane Blaney
Guest
Desane Blaney
14 years 9 months ago

The merits of hiring “mature workers” dates back to 1968 and the creation of the then Title IX, Senior Community Service Employment Programs – now known as Title V and administered by the US Department of Labor through state Area Agencies on Aging and national contractors.

As a project director from 1975 to 2000, I can tell you that many companies were just not interested in hiring the 55 and over set. I’m delighted to see that some of the big boys have finally come around.

“Ability is ageless.”

Matt Werhner
Guest
Matt Werhner
14 years 9 months ago

Maturity is certainly an asset but take that one step further. Diversity is an asset in which maturity, or an older employee, is a component. Smart retailers realize the diversity of their workforce must reflect the diversity of their customer base from the store level through corporate.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

This is more than aging demographics. Using older workers in retail reflects the shortage of good, qualified (responsible) workers, who are willing to work for less and do a thorough job. At retail, this means a reliable workforce which has smaller turnover. Best yet, companies can “manage” the hours to minimize the workers to less than 28 hours, and maximize the numbers of workers which are available to work (pulling these larger numbers of workers into their stores during peak holiday work weeks. Older workers make good sense, and as our population matures, they offer a clear way to maximize a retailer’s presence without the irregularities which a younger workforce brings with it.

Ganapathy Subramanian
Guest
Ganapathy Subramanian
14 years 8 months ago

A mature workforce is always a good idea. They can extend much sincere service to customers better than the younger employee. They won’t have misunderstandings with customers; they will listen and, above all, we can see more love on the floor.

Generally, age factors stop a person from doing everything he expects, in retail. The job requires more standing on the floor, constant arrangement of merchandise, more walking; these factors may affect the aged employee.

And moreover, selective responsibilities only can be given to aged employee.

Multicultural, multi-aged employees on the floor – well, retail is the only industry where we can see many innovative ideas.

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