WASHINGTON—Many older workers are no longer settling for stressful working conditions or fully in-person jobs, finds a new AARP survey of adults age 40 and older. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shift in attitudes about work, with more people prioritizing work-life balance and making workplace flexibility as a job prerequisite.
Understanding a Changing Older Workforce: An Examination of Workers Ages 40-Plus shows that flexible work hours are now a job requirement for 79% of older workers, while 66% say they would only accept a new job if they are able to work remotely at least some of the time. Most older workers (90%) also say they require a job that provides meaningful work.
“During the pandemic, many people took time to reexamine their personal goals and how their job fits into their life,” said Carly Roszkowski, Vice President of Financial Resilience Programming at AARP. “Given the high level of burnout that so many older workers experienced during the pandemic, especially those who are caregivers, it should come as no surprise that work-life balance has emerged as not just a priority but a requirement.”
Over half (53%) of those ages 40-49 and 36% of all workers age 40 and older are caregivers for an adult, typically a partner/spouse or parent, and report having to work remotely, change work hours, reduce hours, use paid caregiving leave or quit their job altogether to provide care in the last five years.
Given the need for more flexibility among caregivers and the emphasis on it among older workers in general, gig and independent work has become increasingly common. More than a quarter (27%) of older workers are doing freelance or gig work and the number is higher (32%) for those ages 40-49. While 89% of gig workers say making extra money is their primary motivation, flexible work hours are a close second at 87%.
Additional findings from the Value of Experience survey:
- Despite the greater emphasis on flexibility and work-life balance, older workers continue to prioritize job stability (88%) and competitive pay (87%) when accepting a job.
- Retirement savings, pension benefits, and being able to phase into retirement are also important considerations for accepting a job.
- Older workers are worried about job security. Nearly one-third (30%) think it is likely they will lose their job within a year, primarily because of a weak economy.
- Age discrimination (37%) is cited as the top reason for lack of confidence in being able to find another job within three months, if needed.
- Over three in five (64%) believe older workers face age discrimination in today’s workplace, and among them, 94% viewing it as commonplace.
- Two in five (41%) report experiencing some type of ageism at work in the past three years, but only 13% have made a formal complaint to a supervisor, HR representative, another organization or a government agency.
“The number of older workers is projected to grow significantly over the next decade, and understanding older workers’ needs and concerns benefits both workers and employers,” said Roszkowski. “For example, paid caregiving leave can help workers maintain productivity and help employers stay competitive in the marketplace.”
Read the full report here, and find information on workforce trends, job-searching tips and the AARP job board at aarp.org/work.
The Value of Experience survey is AARP’s multicultural work and jobs study. The sample was comprised of 2,000 respondents ages 40-plus in the labor force (i.e., those working full-time, part-time, and those who are not working but looking for work), including 1,079 Black workers, 1,103 Hispanic workers, 693 Asian American/Pacific Islander workers, and 644 LGBTQ workers ages 40-plus. The data were weighted to be nationally representative. The survey was fielded online from September 15 – October 12, 2022 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.