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Sociologist Beth Truesdale speaks on the challenges facing America's aging workforce

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 Beth Truesdale
Sociologist Beth Truesdale speaks at St. Olaf College about America’s aging workforce and the challenges of an aging society.
Courtesy of St. Olaf College, Lakaia Thornton

Sociologist Beth Truesdale says we are fortunate to live in an aging society with health, prosperity and longevity that is unprecedented in the history of the world. But, “as a society ages, it changes everything,” she said.

Not everyone has good health; workforce age discrimination is not uncommon; and there are other forms of inequality that prevent people from working longer to have financial security in retirement, Truesdale said.

There are three things important for working longer: jobs, health and family dynamics.

Truesdale said we need to improve the quality and stability of jobs for younger people so everyone can afford a decent retirement. “High quality, stable, jobs in middle age are the main precursor to working at older ages. But stable jobs are becoming more rare,” she said.

Improving the quality of jobs for younger people — and for older people as well — means:

  1. adequate pay

  2. predictable schedules

  3. flexibility that applies to employees, not just to employers

  4. supportive bosses and colleagues

  5. jobs that give meaning and value

    Q&A with sociologist Beth Truesdale at St. Olaf
    by MPR News Presents

Truesdale said if we make investments that improve people's lives when they're young and middle aged, everyone will benefit.

Truesdale spoke on Nov. 13, 2019, at the St. Olaf College Institute for Freedom and Community. Director Edmund Santurri introduced the program. Truesdale is a St. Olaf College alumna and a researcher at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. She is co-editing a book titled, "Overtime: America's Aging Workforce and the Future of Working Longer."