Conventional wisdom holds that people retire at age 65 (hopefully to a mountain-side chalet overlooking a picturesque valley). But whether they can’t afford to stop working or just don’t want to, Coloradans are increasingly postponing retirement. Currently, more than eight percent of workers here are 65 or older, up from fewer than four percent in 2010. That share will likely grow as residents live longer.

Colorado businesses aren’t fully prepared for the maturing labor market, according to a study released this month by NextFifty Initiative, a Denver nonprofit. Most of the nearly 100 human resources employees who took the survey said their employers valued older workers. Appreciation, though, hasn’t translated into policies—such as part-time opportunities or phased retirement plans that decrease hours gradually—to accommodate them. That’s because the influx of young people to Colorado has made filling vacancies easier than adjusting. Due to the state’s low unemployment rate (2.6 percent as of October 2019), however, the well of millennial workers is drying up.

The benefits of hiring seniors go beyond patching a talent shortage. Studies show multi-generational workplaces are happier, and seniors remain healthier when they have robust social circles. Then there’s the harm failing to adapt could have on the economy: “If almost 10 percent of your workforce is struggling, that’s a lot of productivity lost,” says Brian Kaskie, lead researcher on the NextFifty survey. “And that means money lost.”

Some groups are teaching companies how to keep those dollars. Changing the Narrative, a NextFifty-supported campaign, educates businesses about the value of older workers, and the Denver Economic Development & Opportunity department is partnering with the AARP Foundation to help firms change their hiring processes so retirees can more easily re-enter the workforce. NextFifty is also funding a pilot program that will assist 20 or so Colorado businesses in developing offices that are friendlier to older employees. Bonus points if those include valley views.

This article was originally published in 5280 February 2020.
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.