Just because we are aging doesn’t mean we can’t continue to find meaning in life. A consideration: Stepping away from the workplace can leave a person feeling disconnected. An aging person needs to weigh his or her options before retiring and leaving a job they enjoy, one that keeps them engaged with life and the community. 

We are all healthier and living longer. Staying active helps keep us healthy and happy. If you have aging parents, don’t be surprised if they remain employed for many years beyond the age when your grandparents (their parents) retired and left the workforce.

Very few things provide the stimulation and mental challenges of the workplace. Whether there is monetary compensation or not, an aging person benefits from being active and contributing to the community, as does the organization being served.

Aging of the workforce

Today, there are more aging people within the workplace. One factor: The economy of the past five years has taken its toll. Due the cost of living and diminished savings for retirement, many older workers have chosen to defer retirement. 

Because of an older worker’s know-how and steadfastness, employers are reevaluating their perceptions of older workers in the workplace. More often, they are recognizing the value of a worker’s cumulative experience. Progressive employers are open to the idea of aging workers and are less likely to let an experienced, older worker walk out the door. Accommodations are commonly made; examples are shorter hours or less physically demanding work. 

Older workers often possess technical or mechanical skills that are still in demand. For retirees thinking of returning to the workplace, these special skills may open the door. An employer might look to older or former employees to train or mentor younger workers. 

The added value of remaining in the workforce: By being around vibrant, younger people, older individuals more easily maintain a youthful outlook and an agile mind.

If an aging person wants to continue working but feels his or her skills are falling short of the expectations and the needs of today’s workplace, there are numerous opportunities for training and education. The National Council on Aging’s Job Source website (www.ncoajobsource.org) provides a roadmap to skills assessments, job matching, on-line training resources and tips on how an aging person can better promote his- or herself to employers. 

If one or both of your aging parents are continuing to work, support them in their decision to do so. If one parent wants to work but his or her partner has health issues or special needs, schedule a family conference. Brainstorm how to set up a support system of family members and caregivers, so that the parent who wants to work can at least work part-time.

Inactivity leads to boredom

What happens if your parents or other aging family members retire and then find the inactivity of retirement mind-numbing? If income and financial concerns are not issues, they will have the flexibility to work part-time or to volunteer with community organizations.

Most nonprofits provide volunteer opportunities. The City of Seattle has a comprehensive and diverse database of organizations seeking volunteers (www.seattle.gov/html/citizen/communityvolunteer.htm). The website even provides a map showing the locations of many nonprofits throughout the city. This makes it easy to pick an organization that operates close to where the aging person resides. 

Sought-after skills range from providing transportation, office work and music, to working with youths or immigrants, animal rescue and assisting the ill. 

Ongoing mental stimulation and physical activity will contribute to a pleasant and meaningful aging progression. As we age, every one of us needs to look for opportunities to stay engaged.

MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Beck was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as Washington’s 2012 Small Business Person of the Year. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to marla@andelcare.com. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.