Older Adults in Colorado’s Workforce

Nationally, adults 55 and older are projected to be the fastest growing segment of the labor force through 2024, and as one of the states aging the quickest, Colorado will see unprecedented change in the composition of our workplaces. In a new brief, we explore how older adults participate in Colorado’s labor market, why their involvement is important, and the obstacles many older workers face as they engage in the workforce.

The trend toward greater workforce participation among older adults is evident in Colorado’s 2018 Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults (CASOA), a statewide survey of Coloradans aged 60 and older. Of those surveyed, over one-third say they’re working. Of those currently employed, the average expected age of retirement is 72.

Data from Colorado’s Demography Office also shows a growing number of older Coloradans choosing to remain in the workforce. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of working Coloradans aged 65 and older is projected to more than double. By 2020, these older Coloradans are expected to be over 8 percent of the state’s workforce, up from less than 4 percent in 2010.

The growing number of older adults in Colorado’s workforce stems from both:

  • Economic need: As documented by the Bell, Colorado is experiencing a retirement crisis. A national report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows 48 percent of households headed by a person aged 55 or older lack any retirement savings. Additionally, the National Institute of Retirement finds the median 401(k) balance for those between 55 and 64 is less than $15,000. For older adults who lack adequate savings, continuing to work past traditional retirement age is an economic necessity.
  • Desire to continue contributing: Other older adults with the financial means to retire remain in the workforce because they find meaning and value through their employment. A survey from Pew Research finds almost 7 in 10 workers across age groups participate in the workforce partly because it makes them feel “like a useful person.” This same survey finds older adults are more likely than their younger peers to work for reasons not primarily connected to financial need.

Collectively, our economy, businesses, and families are stronger when all individuals, regardless of age, are able to find employment that’s both meaningful and allows them to meet basic economic needs. When we specifically extend support to older Coloradans who want or need to remain in the workforce, several areas see benefits. In a this brief, made possible in part from a generous grant from NextFifty Initiative, we explore the importance of older adults in the workforce and opportunities to bolster this part of Colorado’s economy.