UNFINISHED WORK by Joseph Coleman


The Struggle to Build an Aging American Workforce
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Despite reports of the impending cognitive impairment awaiting fearful seniors, not all our elders are dotty. Valuable corporate memory, knowledge and experience are lost with premature retirements, as journalist Coleman demonstrates.

Until the definition of “old” is revised, the number of old folk increases dramatically, according to all the demographics. The cadre of baby boomers who are destined to be declared redundant at work will know disappointment and humiliation as they become unemployed. The author visits the alert elderly who want to, need to or seek to work in diverse precincts around the globe. In Japan, where there is a pronounced work ethic, Coleman finds old ladies who package leaves for garnish in restaurants and old artisans who fashion bullet-train prows by hand and can even hammer violins out of metal. Workers in France, where there’s a different work ethic, are more laid-back. Their supposed infatuation with long vacations and early retirement is producing a real shortage of experienced labor. Sweden, on the other hand, has an age management network and programs for out-placement and counseling. In La Jolla, California, Scripps Hospital offers its older staff the option of staged retirement. In the Midwest, it’s a more difficult road, but in Sarasota, where there are lots of wealthy retirees, they desire a rewarding, “protean” retirement. Coleman’s text is rife with interviews with experts and gurus and quick answers from think-tankers and self-help coaches. More effective is the author’s inclusion of input from superannuated workers who seek some income and a sense of participation in the world. As the author notes, the Great Recession has made the matter of an aging workforce urgent; career services should have a high priority for government; businesses should do better in profiting from the talents; and individuals need to prepare early for longer working lives.

A resonant restatement of inherent mistakes in our treatment of a workforce that is growing older.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-19-997445-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2014