Exactly who are older workers?The definition of who is (and who is not) an older worker remains elusive. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in the definitions used to designate older workers make it difficult to compare and contrast demographic predictions, the findings of research, and the analyses of policies.
Older Workers as a Protected Group: The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers who are 40 years of age or older. This age is also a threshold when employees might perceive that opportunities for training and development at the workplace seem less available to them.
Access to Retirement Benefits: The “normal” (or normative) retirement age when older workers can begin to receive Social Security benefits is currently 65 (for those who turned 62 in 2000). This age will gradually increase to 67 in 2022. Pension plans are typically linked to the normal retirement age. However, it is important to recognize that the 62-65 age bracket is a marker of the beginning of retirement but not the beginning of a phase of life and career as an older worker.
Public Perception:Respondents to the 2000 American Perceptions of Aging in the 21st Century Survey felt that men are considered to be “old” at a median age of 70 years compared to 75 years for women. Only 14 percent of the respondents felt that chronological age was the primary indicator of old age, while 41 percent felt that declining physical activity and 32 percent that declining mental functioning were the single most important markers of old age.” (p.2)