Stemming the Retirement Tide Stemming the Retirement Tide

older Americans. "Jobs have fewer physical demands these days, so you have less people in the kind of manufacturing, construction work that you physically can't do if you get older. The population is healthier and is expecting to live longer, and so they'll need to support themselves longer."

Toder is one of many who are finding ways to motivate older workers to stay in the office. He participated in a roundtable discussion on worker retention sponsored by the Urban Institute; the institute published the talking points in a 2008 document titled Capitalizing on the Economic Value of Older Adults' Work. The ways to retain older workers included part-time employment, flexible work schedules that vary over the workday or workweek, job sharing, telecommuting, "snowbird" programs that let employees work in different locations seasonally, altering workplaces to make them less physically demanding, and rehiring retirees for short-term projects.

To some CIOs, these options aren't new ideas. "Rehiring part-time people, we do quite a bit of that," Ross said. "We're very open to that. They retire from the state and they can't work over 1,000 hours a year or it will screw up their retirement that they've already got coming. So then if we keep them less than 1,000 hours a year, then they can come back and get the state health insurance, which is a bargain."

Wing rehires retirees because she needs them to work on mission-critical systems that only the most experienced employees can handle.

"Our property system - some of our staff are retiring and it's going to take another two or three years until that system's completed, so we have reached out to them saying, 'Can you come back and help us during the busy business cycle?'" she said.

It seems that though employers will have to fill vacant positions with younger employees, some older workers will still be available to make the transition easier. In fact, there's speculation that the nature of how people relate to the workplace throughout their lifetimes might change.

"As the age composition of the work force changes, it's going to affect the nature of the workplace as well," Toder said. "Maybe we'll get more to a society where the norm is, instead of really working like gangbusters until you're 60 and then stopping, it's more of a mode that mixes work and other things throughout your working life."

Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  | 

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.