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Older Adults Present a ‘Solution’ for Labor Shortages, Our CEO Tells ‘Fortune’

Jo Ann Jenkins gives remarks at the World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum / Ciaran McCrickard

With a tight labor market that has many companies scrambling to hire and retain qualified workers, older adults are part of the answer, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins tells Fortune magazine. “Older people are going to be the solution for many companies that are trying to hire people to deal with labor shortages and bring folks back into the workplace,” she said.

There were 11.4 million job openings in the U.S. in April, down slightly from March’s 11.8 million vacancy record but still just the sixth time on record that monthly job openings have eclipsed 11 million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That same month, U.S. layoffs plummeted to an all-time low of 1.2 million.

Many employers are desperate for talent, but Jenkins said older adults are often overlooked, citing a recent AARP survey finding that nearly 8 in 10 AARP members experienced some form of age discrimination last year. The country isn’t “prepared to reap the benefits of having older people stay in the workplace, which includes their wisdom, guidance and the culture that they bring to an organization,” she said in the interview.

Jenkins also touched on the devastation the COVID-19 pandemic has had on nursing homes, with more than 200,000 deaths among residents and staff. Those facilities need to be better staffed, she said, and called for greater investments into home health options. “The idea of home care, which actually ends up costing a whole lot less than putting someone in a nursing facility or long-term care, is the number one issue that our members tell us is important to them,” she said.

Read the full interview.

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