Working Longer

PLEASE NOTE: New grant proposals are no longer being accepted in this program.
Photo courtesy of Amy Hart/New York Academy of Medicine

Launched by the Foundation in 2014, the Age Smart Employer Awards honor innovative NYC employers who take full advantage of the talents, expertise, skills and commitment of older workers like Certified Nurse Practitioner Levern Jackson.

Program Goal

To expand and deepen scholarly, policy, and public understanding of older Americans' labor market activities and to identify ways in which institutional adjustments may facilitate employment of those who need or want to work beyond conventional retirement ages.


From 2010 to 2019, under the leadership of program director Kathleen E. Christensen, the Foundation's Working Longer program made grants examining one of today’s most pressing social issues: older workers who need or want to work beyond conventional retirement ages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, one of four people working will be 55 years old or older. Research in this multidisciplinary program worked to create a body of knowledge about how the labor market functions for older workers, the companies that employ them, and what can be done to support and strengthen this shift in how Americans work. Adjusting U.S. labor market institutions for the new demographic realities is a tier-one challenge for the 21st century.

Older Worker Labor Market

Grants in this subprogram examined the supply and demand sides of the U.S. labor market for older workers. Research topics included:

Human Capital: Occupation, Education, Cognition, and Health
How do the particular work history, occupation, cognitive abilities, and health of the individual impact employment for men and women after age 55? 

Household Structure: Marriage, Divorce, Children, and Grandchildren
How do changes in the family at older ages alter labor force activities due to intergenerational transfers of money or in-kind resources, such as housing and care?

Personnel Practices: Incentives, Sorting, Compensation, Job Design, and HR Practices
How can employers identify and implement practices that sustain or improve employee productivity as people age?

Gig Economy: Independent Contracting and Other Forms of Self-Employment
How does the shift to the gig economy affect opportunities and costs for older workers?

Economic Security for Older Americans

Grants in this subprogram examined the ways in which assets and access to resources and information affect labor market behavior among older workers. Research topics included:

Finances: Resources, Pensions, and Financial Literacy
What roles do financial security, macroeconomic factors, and individual financial literacy play in work and retirement decisions?

Infrastructure for Data Collection and Community-Building

Grants in this subprogram focused on providing resources to the diverse and growing community of scholars investigating issues at the intersection of aging and work. Funded activities included:

Data Collection 
The collection and management of datasets and related tools that bear on the analysis of older workers' labor market behavior. 

Conferences,workshops, and networks to enhance sharing of research and building of a community.

Public Policy Impediments and Facilitators

Grants in this subprogram focused on understanding the complex interplay of state and federal regulations regarding work and retirement and the ensuing effects on older workers' labor market decisions. Topics included:

Institutions: Social Security, Pension, Disability, and Health Insurance Regulations 
How do the important and changing regulatory aspects of the Social Security system and other federal and state policies relate to decisions to work longer and to retire?

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