Grant to study work options as boomers reach retirement


Boston College & Sloan Foundation Team for research

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (9-6-05)--The newly established Boston College Center on Aging & Work has received a $3-million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to study how the American workplace will evolve to accommodate its aging workforce. That question and others related to the impending challenge facing the U.S. as a large segment of its workers approaches the "traditional" age of retirement will be part of the three-year research-centered grant.

The United States is expected to face a shortage of millions of workers within the coming decade as the Baby Boomers retire, taking with them years of experience, talent and expertise and leaving fewer new workers available to fill their places.

Numerous studies conducted over the past decade, however, have found that most older workers in the U.S. are actively considering their options for extending the number of years they spend in paid employment, either because they want to or because they need the additional income.

This extended participation could alleviate a tight labor market, but there are many factors that will determine how many of these older Americans continue to work such as personal and family circumstances, income needs, public policies that act as incentives or the opposite, and attitudes at the workplace about older workers.

"One thing that can affect older workers' decisions about work that is often over-looked is the availability, or lack of availability, of flexible work options," said Boston College Center on Aging & Work Co-Director Michael A. Smyer. "Our work will focus on the study of working flexibility because it is a particularly important element of innovative employer responses to the aging workforce." Smyer is an award-winning psychologist and dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at Boston College, whose research and teaching focuses on geriatric mental health and, in particular, its policy aspects.

"We plan to examine employers' use of a range of these options, how they are implemented in the workplace, and how they are utilized by older workers," added Center Co-Director Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, an associate professor of social work at Boston College who has been responsible for numerous research projects about work and family issues, corporate culture, and workplace policies and programs established by small and medium-sized firms.

"At the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we have spent 10 years and $60 million researching families and work," said Kathleen Christianson, director of the Workplace, Workforce and Working Families Program. "It has become clear to us that the aging workforce is an important factor in understanding how workplace flexibility can be a win-win for businesses and their employees."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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