Employment Transitions in Late Adulthood

Demographic trends, macroeconomic conditions, and changes in the nature of work have spurred interest in the older worker. Increasing population longevity and reduced birth rates have led policymakers to delay or eliminate fixed-age mandatory retirement as a means of stabilizing workforce size. At the same time, organizations concerned with talent shortages and organizational knowledge transfer have explored the use of exit strategies that extend the employee retirement process over time (e.g., bridge retirement). In theory, such trends are expected to provide support for sustained employability and a longer working life, and there is growing evidence that older individuals are increasingly delaying retirement or reentering the workforce. In practice, however, it is unclear how labor policy changes and organizational practices affect the worker transition process, sustain employability, and promote worker well-being following labor force exit. Although organizations may offer bridge employment options, human resource management practices are often slow to change (see de Lange, Kooij, & van der Heijden, this volume), leading to older worker feelings of disenfranchisement and work dissatisfaction. Organizations have often taken a reactive rather than proactive approach to the development of programs and practices that promote sustained employability (such as older worker socialization, training, and development), mitigate disruptive intergenerational conflict in increasingly age-diverse work teams, and support the hire of qualified older workers. Taken together, these local work experiences may encourage older worker exit from the job and/or the workforce despite broader organizational goals to attract, train, and retain such workers. In summary, while there is wide consensus on the desirability of a longer high-quality working life for many people in developed countries, the development of effective, coordinated strategies for accomplishing such a goal remains largely elusive. This volume seeks to address this issue from a person-centric perspective, namely by examining the impact of work on older worker experiences, goals, attitudes, and behaviors.