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The silver-collar economy

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Combine that with the sheer size of the baby boom cohort, and the trend promises to alter the makeup of workplaces across the developed world over the next two decades. Already, in fact, the growing presence of older workers is one of the most notable facts of the current US job market.

Since January 2010, job seekers age 55 and up have accounted for 70 percent of all employment gains in the US. Viewed over the past decade, the pattern is even more stark. That older group has added some 10 million employees to its ranks, even as employment among other age groups has actually declined by more than 4 million.

Those statistics, by the way, shouldn't be interpreted to mean that older workers have found it easy in a tough economy. The reality is that only about 17 percent of seniors are employed, which is far lower than the 39 percent who say in surveys that they "need" to work in retirement, according to a report this spring by Wells Fargo.

What the statistics do show is an inexorable force. The rising share of seniors employed over the past decade, coupled with the number of boomers poised to hit retirement who want to keep working, means the number of older people in the workforce will continue to surge.

"It's staggering," says Kim Ruyle, a human resources consultant. For the next decade, he says, thousands of boomers every day will be hitting the 62 to 65 age frame that in the past has been accompanied by cake-and-speech farewells at the office.

Where are older people finding work? Just about everywhere, actually.

Across the country from Needham, Mass., amid the balmy breezes of San Diego, Scripps Health offers another case study in welcoming older workers. Scripps has been recognized many times as among the "Best Employers for Workers Over 50" – as ranked by AARP. And it's a major employer – 14,400 people in a network of local hospitals and clinics.

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