Majority Press

Dexter, Maine Small Business Owner Testifies Before Senate Aging Committee About Seniors Working In Retirement Years

        WASHINGTON, DC—Senate Aging Committee Chairman Susan Collins today led a hearing titled. “Work in Retirement: Career Reinventions and the New Retirement Workscape,” which was called to examine the opportunities and challenges for seniors who work well into their retirement years—some because they want to and others because they must.  At the request of Senator Collins, Susan Nordman, owner of Erda, an artisan handbag company in Dexter, Maine testified.  Erda employs several seniors.

        According to a recent study, nearly half of today’s retirees say they either must work or want to work during their retirement years.  AARP says that a comfortable retirement now requires a “four-legged stool”—Social Security, a pension, retirement savings, and continued paid work. .

        Ms. Nordman bought Erda two years ago and began operating it as a second career.  She believes that older workers add great value to her small business because of their experience, knowledge, and ability to work in a collaborative environment.  These seniors also serve as mentors to younger employees. 

        Nordman explained that financial necessity dictates the need to work for most of her older workers as retirement is not an option.  She dispelled the notion that older workers may be harder to train saying that because of their experience and maturity, older workers tend to embrace new methods more quickly and easily.

        Senator Collins said that, for the last century, seniors had been withdrawing from the workforce as Americans came to view retirement as a time of leisure.  But the baby boom generation has reversed this trend.  In 2000, only 32 percent of Americans age 55 and older were still working. Today, 40 percent of workers 55 and older remain in the workforce, many for financial reasons.

        Another witness, Kerry Hannon, who is a columnist and retirement expert, cited a recent AARP study that found that, contrary to common perception, workers age 50 and older do not cost significantly more than younger workers. She cited additional studies that outlined the advantages of hiring older workers, which include the fact that these workers have more experience, they have a stronger work ethic, and are more professional.

        Witnesses also discussed the need for employers to work to hire, retain and accommodate older workers since they are a growing and vital part of our nation’s workforce.

        Additional witnesses included; Sara E. Rix, Working and Aging Consultant and former AARP senior strategic policy advisor; and James C. Godwin, Jr., Vice President of Human Resources, Bon Secours Virginia Health System.