June 18, 2013 -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) tops this year's list of the best employers for Baby Boomers, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
The list, co-sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), ranks 50 employers on such elder-friendly features as flex-time, benefits for retirees, and health and pension plans.
The rest of the top five are: Scripps Health of San Diego; Atlantic Health Systems of Morristown, N.J.; the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas at Houston; and Mercy Health System of Janesville, Wis.
Why do health care employers so dominate the list? Jean Setzfand, AARP vice president for financial security, says health care's dominance is a trend she has been observing for several years now. Care providers, she says, recognize their clientele is aging and want to hire employees who understand and sympathize with those customers' needs. These employers "value the skill set of the older worker," she says. They also need to recruit and retain skilled labor, which often means an older worker.
It's not as though AARP's 50 companies are the best for Baby Boomers only, Setzfand says. They're the best, she thinks, for workers in general, no matter what their age. But to the extent that the 50 offer special benefits aimed at Baby Boomers, they're especially attractive to that cohort.
Since 2001, AARP has recognized employers who recruit older workers or who have implemented programs to retain, retrain and engage workers aged 50 and up. Such workers, says AARP in a statement accompanying the list, "will be increasingly crucial to the success of the U.S. economy over the coming decade."
The 2013 winners reflect a variety of employment sectors, both profit and non-profit. They include government, academia, healthcare, aerospace, construction and financial services. Top-ranked NIH recruits older workers through job fairs and by notifying recent retirees of job opportunities, according to AARP. Workers 50 or older account for 47 percent of the its employees.
Second-ranked San Diego healthcare system Scripps uses senior placement agencies to recruit mature workers and retirees, who make up 36 percent of its workforce. AARP says Scripps offers benefits that include flextime, job sharing and telecommuting for employees working 16-plus hours per week. Employees can elect to participate in a formal phased retirement program. Full-time employees can transition to part-time work on a permanent or temporary basis. On-site grandchild-care is offered.
Farther down the list, coming in at number 40, is Coconino County, Arizona -- setting for cartoonist George Herriman's immortal comic strip, Krazy Kat, whose protagonist (the Kat) is routinely assaulted by a brick-throwing mouse whose missiles Krazy misinterprets as missives of love . According to AARP, 41 percent of county employees are age 50-plus. The county has 224 retirees and an individual directly responsible for their wellbeing.
This year's winning companies were selected by a panel of 14 judges that included Nevin Adams, co-director of the Employee Benefit Research Institute's Center for Research on Retirement Income; Ellen Bruce, director of the University of Massachusetts' Gerontology Institute; and David Gamse, CEO of the Jewish Council for the Aging.
AARP and SHRM reviewed only companies that applied for consideration -- about 150 in all.