Adult Education Implications

This inquiry suggests that older workers are situated in a dynamic pattern of
periods of active employment, disengagement from the workplace, and
reentry into the same or a new career. Older workers exhibit different work
patterns at different stages. The workplace becomes a dynamic space for
older workers rather than a unidirectional journey leading to retirement. An
adult education perspective for the third stage
of working life--beyond the traditional
retirement age--will view the older worker as
an active agent negotiating various roles
within the workspace. The roles, depending
on life circumstances, might include the
decision to remain in, retire from, or return to
periods of part-time, full-time, or part-season
work. These work choice patterns will
challenge adult educators to develop training,
career development, and organizational
development strategies appropriate to a
third stage of working life (Jessup and
Greenberg 1989).  

An aging and changing work force may cause
us to reexamine and revalue the meaning and necessity of work for older
workers. An aging work force might influence workplace cultures and values
in ways that change our notions of the meaning and necessity of work. A
workplace that blends training opportunities, flexible employment patterns,
and policies supportive of the life needs of an aging work force may become
a workplace that embraces older workers as capable, productive, and
knowledgeable lifelong workers. Older workers will need organizational and
social supports to encourage the extension of the work life (Bailey and
Hansson 1995).  

An investigation of the meaning of work in the lives of older workers is fertile
ground for adult educators. Adult educators might explore learning-teaching
approaches that are more effective for providing career guidance to older
adults making transitions to part-time work, returning from periods of
retirement, or contemplating leaving the work force. Flexible schedules, job
sharing, reduced loads, and seasonal employment may be redefined in the
context of a changing and aging work force. Notions of full-time, part-time and
career work--usually applied to workers aged 18-65--may need to be
reexamined in light of employees working beyond the eighth decade of life.  

Older workers represent a rich source of experience, accumulated
knowledge, and wisdom. The quality and sensitivity of an institution's program
for counseling, training, retraining, and preparing older workers for life and
career transition might be the means by which organizations recruit and
retain valued and productive workers.  

Genwich Life Services LLC

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