Workplace Trends: Aging baby boomers, global economy spur new opportunities

In its ?Labor Day Report: Challenger Future Workplace Trends,? global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. cites several areas where the impact of retiring boomers could spur the creation of jobs to serve them. Here are a few:

Retirement consultants. Retirement consulting for couples is expected to be in high demand, especially in dual-income households where both the husband and wife retire at about the same time. A consultant will evaluate each situation objectively and guide retirees toward decisions based on personality, business experience and financial situation, among other factors. Consultants will also help these couples cope with the changes brought about by their retirement and help them discover what they want to do to with their leisure time.

Eldercare. By the year 2020, the ratio of individuals more than 65 years of age to the working age adult population (18-64) will be 27.7 per 100, a 38 percent increase from the ratio in 2001. By 2040, there will be nearly 37 people age 65 and older per 100 18-to-64-year-olds. Some companies may offer on-site nonmedical eldercare facilities, just as children are brought to company-operated day care centers. Increased employee productivity and a reduction in absenteeism will offset the cost of the centers to companies. Entrepreneurial nanny services will evolve into ?granny? services, operated by and employing young people to run errands and help with household chores.

Corporate memory managers. A growing number of companies will begin building large databases of case histories that will serve as the virtual corporate memory. Corporate memory is comprised of the collective business experiences, dramas, visions, successes and failures of real people who work for a company. But companies will face a serious memory drain as the first of 77 million baby boomers reach retirement age in seven years. To prevent this memory loss, companies will need an ongoing and detailed record of projects, programs, results and other information placed in a database. When future situations arise, a ?corporate memory manager? will search the database for similar instances and create a report containing possible strategies and outcomes.

Electronic housecallers. Retailers will expand their use of computers to reach the exploding population of seniors. Seniors 65 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the population. By 2050, there will be nearly 82 million Americans in this category, more than double the number of 18-to-24-year-olds, the group now most coveted by marketers. Future generations of seniors will be far more computer savvy and will rely heavily on the Internet to get information, products and services. Medications may be dispensed through a computerized device, and when the pills or liquid get to a certain level, a new order will be placed automatically over the Internet.

Inter-econ workers. This new job category is expected to emerge from the growing need to provide goods and services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Companies are expected to rely on ?inter-econ workers? who will be willing and able to work the flexible hours associated with an increasingly Internet-oriented, nonstop marketplace. This new type of worker is described as comfortable with the latest technology. The report suggests this new worker category has already emerged as more people work flextime schedules. In 2001, 28.7 million Americans, or 29 percent of the full-time wage and salary workers, maintained flexible schedules, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics? latest survey of alternative work schedules. The 29 percent figure is a 93 percent increase from 1991, when only 15 percent of the labor force worked flexible schedules.