2020 AARP-UN Briefing Series: Executive Summary

UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK – AARP hosted its 13th annual briefing series, Living, Learning, and Earning Longer: The Business Case for an Age Diverse Workforce, during the 58th session of the Commission for Social Development. It was also the United Nations’ 75th anniversary, whose theme is “Shaping Our Future Together,” and the 25th anniversary of the Global Social Summit, which was first held in Copenhagen in 1995 and resulted in the Copenhagen Declaration

High-level Takeaways 

1.  The implications of longevity can be just as profound and transformative as disruptive technologies and globalization – making four to five generations in the workforce the new normal.

2. Age diversity and inclusion is a long-term competitive advantage that will help the private sector remain resilient, despite demographic trends, and will allow firms to ensure they’re relevant with the consumer at-large.

3.  In a recent AARP survey of over 1,700 global companies, we found that 86 percent identify a multigenerational workforce as valuable to their organization’s success and growth.  In addition, they are looking for tools to help them create and support a multigenerational workforce, as well as solutions for breaking down barriers that prevent those who want to work longer from doing so.

4.  An intentional approach to maximizing the multigenerational workforce will ensure all prosper. The employer, the employee, and, ultimately, the consumer benefit from products and services that better meet their needs. A multigenerational workforce boosts the global economy, as well.  According to OECD calculations, giving older workers the best opportunities to work would raise GDP per person across the OECD by 19 percent over the next 30 years.

5.  Solutions will need to be multi-pronged:  public policy solutions, company policy changes, and information and tools to help companies create and maximize their multigenerational workforces. 



Because the world faces rapid population aging, with older persons aged 65 and over now outnumbering children under five years old, this joint effort between AARP and the United Nations (UN) sought to underscore the pressing need to develop new narratives about aging and living longer. The series’ global platform allowed for leaders and stakeholders to engage in policy dialogue focused on worldwide aging, and the event amplified a discussion on the business case for creating and investing in the multigenerational, inclusive workforce, based on the collaborative work of AARP, the World Economic Forum, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  Participants included senior officials from the UN, as well as leaders from the private sector, including experts from financial services, technology, and nonprofit organizations. The objective was to explore the public sector’s role in creating a policy environment that fosters and invests in an age diverse and inclusive workforce for all.

Additional observations from the event include:

The significant role that the public sector can and should play in policy reform to foster and incentivize private industry to leverage a multigenerational workforce.

The concept that “age” should not be a factor in employment, the contribution of older employees shows up not only in their own individual outcomes, but in the performance of those with whom they work. And after all, what matters most to a business, is how the business performs overallFor companies to be viable in the long term, the issue of purpose has become more important. Particularly the environmental, social and governance factors (ESGs), shifting the paradigm from being narrowly profitable for shareholders to include protecting value for future generations of employees, as well as communities as stakeholders.

Dr. Jean Accius, senior vice president of AARP Global Thought Leadership, delivered the welcome remarks, acknowledging all speakers and commending the organizers for a great event. He emphasized that AARP, with a membership of nearly 38 million, is dedicated to empowering people and enabling them to choose how they live as they age. Accius discussed the importance of fostering domestic and international ties to shape how the world views and values aging.

Jo Ann Jenkins, chief executive officer of AARP and author of the best-selling book, Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age, cited data from AARP’s Longevity Economy Outlook report: in the United States, workers over the age of 50 contributed $8.3 trillion of economic activity in 2018. She stressed that such activity supports 88.6 million jobs in the United States—and this figure will continue to grow as the first millennials start moving into their 50s. Thus, the Longevity Economy Outlook is a wake-up call for rethinking attitudes about aging, a multigenerational workforce, opportunities, and challenges—especially those brought by new technologies. She highlighted issues of ageism and discrimination and their potential negative impact on the Future of Work and on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals;. In this regard, she called upon the private sector to provide opportunities for older workers to remain in their jobs. Additionally, she emphasized the role of government at local, national, and international levels to decrease discrimination against older workers—by ensuring that adequate policies and institutional systems are in place and that barriers are removed.

The President of the UN’s 74th General Assembly, the Hon. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, delivered the keynote address at this well-attended event, which boasted more than 200 participants, including heads of delegations from ministries of social development, ambassadors to the UN, representatives from the private sector, and members of civil society. H.E. Muhammad-Bande noted that by 2030, there will be nearly 1 billion people aged 65 and older around the world, and underscored that the UN is determined to work closely with all stakeholders to implement new and aggressive policies aimed at improving the living conditions of older persons. “We must work for societal and structural changes, including adaptive behavior, policies, social inclusion, universal health coverage, and lifelong learning,” he said. He also called for forging strong partnerships with different stakeholders, including the private sector, to achieve a multigenerational workforce as well as an inclusive and just society.

Peter Rundlet, Vice President of International Affairs of AARP, set the stage for the panel discussion, highlighting the role of the public sector in creating a policy environment that fosters and invests in an age diverse and inclusive workforce for all. He cited the emergence of “disruptive” trends taking place in the world, such as artificial intelligence and other new technologies. He stressed that, like these, healthy longevity is a disruptive trend but that it is also a great opportunity. In this regard, he highlighted AARP’s work in bringing the private sector into the conversation, including a learning collaborative initiated in 2019 where – so far -- 27 significant global companies have committed to the venture, collectively representing 1.4 million employees and more than $800 billion in revenue.

Lauren Young, special projects editor for Thomson Reuters, moderated the panel discussion, posing the first question—Does age matter?—to which Dimitra Manis, Chief People Officer of S&P Global, responded with her perspective that, regardless of whether you are a millennial or a boomer, age does not matter. She noted that many people peak much later in their lives, in terms of skills and experiences. Fellow panelist Frank Cooper, Chief Marketing officer of BlackRock, agreed, adding that while age does not matter, it still plays a role in terms of life experiences. For example, today’s younger generationis mostly driven by advancements in technology. What is most important, is to devise ways to unlock the potential of people at different age levels.

Another member of the panel, Haig Nalbantian, Senior Partner at Mercer, posed the question differently: Should age matter? He observed that age has a profound impact on the workforce. Studies have shown age-based correlations between retention, success, and promotion in the workplace. For example, the older a worker is, the more likely he or she would receive a lower performance rating or fewer opportunities for advancement in the workplace. Haig also noted that, conversely, studies have shown that the more there are older employees on a team, the better the business performance of that team.

When panelists were asked their views on the best way to truly create a multigenerational workforce that functions at a high level, Cooper expressed the importance of mixing newer workers with those who have more career tenure, which tends to unlock great potential for all workers. Manis emphasized that everyone, regardless of age, wants to have a meaningful purpose in an organization. Haig added that although the experienced workforce is growing, there is a huge opportunity for employers to get more out of this reservoir of knowledge, experience, and age diversity—cross fertilization of ideas and capability, for example.

Before concluding the discussion, panelists addressed other important issues, including gender disparities in the workplace, skills development, technology advancements, continuous learning, and pension schemes, to name a few; all of which will influence the Future of Work.

Amal Abou Rafeh, Chief of the Programme on Ageing (DESA), brought the session to a close by thanking the panelists and moderator for an excellent and engaging conversation. She expressed her gratitude for the partnership between DESA and AARP and for the successful 13 briefing series held to date; she also thanked Muhammad-Bande for his commitment to and participation in the event. In conclusion, she applauded the many governments in attendance, stressing the importance of having the right policies, legislation, practices, and conversations as we advance the dialogue on the “longevity revolution.”


2020 AARP UN Briefing Series: Video Highlights

AARP hosted its 13th annual briefing series, Living, Learning, and Earning Longer: The Business Case for an Age Diverse Workforce, during the 58th session of the Commission for Social Development. It was also the United Nations’ 75th anniversary, whose theme is “Shaping Our Future Together,” and the 25th anniversary of the Global Social Summit, which was first held in Copenhagen in 1995 and resulted in the Copenhagen Declaration

2020 AARP-UN Briefing Series: Photo Gallery