Although the prevailing attitude may be that older workers aren’t keeping pace with technology, recent studies show that this may not be the case. For example, in the area of cybersecurity, older workers scored higher than their younger counterparts on key criteria used to measure cybersecurity “best practices.” Older workers’ ownership and usage of tablets is also comparable to that of other age categories. Though seniors continue to lag behind younger workers, they have had a 10 percent increase, since 2012, in the usage of smartphones and social media.

These results speak volumes about the ingenuity and adaptability of older workers; nevertheless, older workers continue to be shunted aside by technology as witnessed in a recent column in The Advocate by journalist Edward Pratt. In “Technology takes a job from my friend,” Pratt writes about a friend, who is over 60, losing a job he’s held for 15 years to technology. The Pratt article hit a nerve for me because I am a 68-year-old African American male, who takes pride in keeping up with the latest technologies and incorporating them in my work and personal activities. Yet, I often encounter bias and premature judgments about what I can and cannot do as it relates to the usage of technologies.  

So, what is the implication for older workers’ level of participation in the future workforce if evidence indicates they have an advantage in the area of Cybersecurity, equal to younger workers with the usage of tablets and are making gains in their level of usage for other technologies, and yet they are still being shunted aside in the workplace?  

There are three important trends to consider when evaluating the role of older workers in the labor force. The first trend to consider is that new technologies and innovations will lead to a projected 8.4 million new jobs by 2028. Meeting this increased demand of 8.4 million jobs will require a more educated diverse workforce to include younger and older adults.

The second trend: As the overall labor force participation rate decreases between 2018 and 2028, the participation rate of older workers is expected to increase while that of the younger workers is expected to decrease. The labor force participation rate for older workers (55 and over) is expected to increase from 23.1 percent in 2018 to 25.2 percent by 2028. Conversely, the labor force participation rate for those ages 16 to 24 is projected to continue to decline from 12.9 percent to 11.5 percent. The workforce participation for those in the middle, 25 and 54 years of age, remain relatively flat, increasing by only by .04 percent.

Thirdly, according to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans age 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise from 16 percent to 23 percent. 

In summary, new technologies and innovations will drive the demand for additional workers; older workers will represent a growing component of the future workforce while younger workers’ workforce participation rate declines and middle age workers’ rate is relatively flat. Older workers are living longer and healthier, thus being able to be productive and contributing citizens longer. 

Acknowledging and accepting these trends, America is now at a point where its future competitiveness dictates that older workers be recognized and valued as continued workforce participants. They should be provided with opportunities for educational and technical training to help them acquire the skills and technical competences to remain competitive as new technologies and innovations drive changes in workforce needs. In addition to actually using existing technologies, older workers want to receive the training needed to help them remain employable and productive in the workforce. Therefore, embracing rather than shunting aside our seniors in the workforce is a societal imperative.