The National Academy of Social Insurance, like many modern organizations, is committed to diversity in all aspects of its work. Jean Accius, recently recognized as a 2020 Influencer in Aging by Next Avenue, has studied age diversity and the impact of discrimination as another barrier to employment and economic opportunity. In AARP’s Longevity Economy Outlook Accius and his team dispel myths about older adults.

Q: AARP’s Longevity Economy Outlook projected that older adults will fuel economic growth and stimulate jobs into 2050; how has the pandemic affected them?

The pandemic has laid bare some of the long-standing challenges we face as a country, one of which is ageism. Over the course of the last couple of months we have heard some troubling statements about older adults and older workers, indicating to us that we have a tremendous amount of work to disrupt negative stereotypes and elevate the value, benefits, and contributions of this population to our society, industries, and sectors. Contrary to persistent misperceptions, older adults are not a drain on our economy. They are a huge asset driving economic growth, stimulating jobs, and creating opportunities for all.

New research from OECD shows that companies with an age-inclusive workplace are more likely to be productive, innovative, and are more likely to see higher revenue growth. And they are also more likely to be able to weather the kind of challenges we have experienced over the past several months. Why? Because age diversity creates a mix of talent, experience and creativity that drives innovation and engagement.

That report was heavily informed by the Living, Learning, and Earning Longer (LLEL) collaborative, a partnership between AARP, OECD, and the World Economic Forum to help employers build, support, and sustain multigenerational workforces. AARP released a global survey of nearly 6,000 employers across OECD countries and found that 83% of global executives recognized that a multigenerational workforce is key to business growth and success. Yet, age is conspicuously absent from a large percentage of diversity and inclusion policies.


Q:  How does a multigenerational perspective influence policy?

We need to look at life stage and not just chronological age. I’ll give you an example. There are nearly 50 million caregivers in this country. The average age of a family caregiver is 49 years old and we know that the average masks variation. When we looked across the spectrum of caregivers, we found that one in four are millennials. When people talk about family caregivers, Millennials are not always part of the conversation. Yet, a major part of the millennial family caregiving experience is balancing the dual pressures of employment and caregiving. 

No one wakes up saying I want to be poor. But we have policies and systems in place that have created certain conditions that are structural in nature. We often talk about wanting to meet people where they are, but what do we mean? I think it means we meet someone at the point in their life when they need help the most. Where we can be a wise friend and a fierce defender by providing information and resources to empower them to make the best decisions for themselves and their family. That is where we have an opportunity to co-create solutions that makes sure everyone has an opportunity to live a life of dignity, purpose, and meaning. That is why this moment in time is so important.

Change, especially in Washington DC, usually happens incrementally. Historically, however, significant shifts often occur after a big crisis. COVID-19, the high unemployment rate, and the racial unrest we have seen has been painful. Millions of us have been sheltered at home for about nine months now and I am wondering what are we going to give birth to? Are we going return to the past, with incremental patches to address systemic, long-standing issues? Or are we going to give birth to some bold solutions so when the next crisis comes we will be better off? I am hoping we will go for the bold. A timid response to the challenges we are witnessing is insufficient as we reimagine our collective futures.

More about Jean Accius

Jean Accius, a senior vice president at AARP, focuses on aging, longevity, caregiving, and long-term services and supports. He was recognized as a Gerontological Society of America Fellow, one of Black Enterprise magazine’s 2018 Modern Man of Distinction, and a recipient of the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund 40 under 40 Award. In 2019, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded him with the prominent “Sharecare Award” for his groundbreaking work on male family caregivers. He was elected to the Academy in 2013 and was a “Torch Recipient” at the 30th Anniversary of the Academy in 2017.

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