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Employ Older Workers Week: Recognizing the Value and Contribution of Older Californians. By: Secretary Mark Ghaly and Secretary Julie Su

The Governor has adopted “California for All” as the guiding principle of this Administration and charged us all with building a California in which everyone shares in our prosperity, no one is left behind, and our economy and our institutions work for all. This includes, of course, older Californians and gives us the opportunity to come together to develop a framework for how we become an age-friendly state.

Over the course of the next year, along with stakeholders and community partners, we as an Administration are embarking on the development of a Master Plan for Aging. The idea is simple, but the task ahead is significant. We want to create a blueprint that can be used by state government, local communities, private organizations and philanthropy to build environments that promote healthy aging.

This will require us to work across sectors and with government at every level to ensure that we are developing a framework that is person-centered and gets to the needs of older Californians. This is why the two of us have joined forces to think about the changing workforce issues we face as a State, both with respect to addressing the needs of older Californians, which particularly impacts the health care and caregiving industries, and to recognize the value, contributions, and increased participation of older Californians in our workforce.

This week we celebrate Employ Older Workers Week. This is a time for us all to recognize the contributions older Californians make in our communities across the state. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by next year roughly a quarter of our labor force will consist of individuals 55 years of age and over. The data also suggests that older workers are retiring later. At the same time, the unemployment rate among this cohort is disproportionately higher relative to all other age groups.

It is equally important for us to take the time to acknowledge and recognize that bias against older workers is real and many older Californians face ageism in the workplace. Although discriminating against someone simply due to their age is illegal under federal and state law, there is ample research and anecdotal evidence that suggests that ageism continues to exist. We cannot and must not be blind to this and have to take opportunities to elevate the discussion and find ways to change how we perceive our older friends, family members, and neighbors. Employer Older Workers Week is a perfect time to do this.

In our own Agencies—the California Health and Human Services Agency and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency—we have many older individuals who are contributing and advancing our work and building a California that is for all. In some cases we have three or four generations working together. This diversity ensures that we have varying perspectives and skillsets. For us, our people are our greatest asset, and that includes those older employees who come to work each and every day to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. This week, and every week, we need to find the time to acknowledge the value and contribution of those older Californians in our workforce.

Health care and caregiving jobs, fueled in part by the needs of older Californians, are among the growth industries shaping our economy. We face the challenge of improving these jobs and protecting and investing in the workers who do this important work. We have tremendous opportunities to uplift these jobs, recognizing that job quality and patient care are interconnected.

Through our work in the coming months, we commit to elevating this conversation through both our Master Plan for Aging Stakeholder Advisory Committee which is being convened by Secretary Ghaly and the Health and Human Services Agency and the Future of Work Commission that is being convened by Secretary Su and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, along with the Governor’s advisors on business and economic development and higher education. Together we hope to develop an agenda that not only celebrates the strength of older Californians and finds outlets and opportunities for their full talent and abilities to flourish, but also acknowledges the demographic shift that will occur and is prepared for the challenges they present.

It’s upon all of us to ensure that we create environments where all individuals, including older Californians, have the opportunity to engage, contribute, and thrive. We have a great deal of work ahead of us and although we take this time to pause and celebrate the vast contributions of older Californians, it is also time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

View the Governor’s message on Employ Older Workers Week here.