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U.S. Needs Policies that Support Productive Activities in Later Life, GSA Member Tells Senate

For Immediate Release
April 21, 2023

Contact: Todd Kluss
(202) 587-2839

Speaking at an April 20 hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, New York University Professor Ernest Gonzales, PhD, MSSW, told lawmakers about the economic potential of older workers and called for the passage of legislation to address age discrimination. Gonzales is a member of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA).

Senators convened the hearing, titled “Beyond the 9 to 5: Dismantling Barriers and Building Economic Resilience for Older Workers,” to examine the experience of the aging workforce, including older adults’ economic security and employment opportunities. It highlighted key barriers to older Americans’ participation in the workforce, as well as proposals to better support these workers.

Gonzales, the James Weldon Johnson Professor of Social Work and director of The Center for Health and Aging Innovation at New York University, was called upon to highlight productive aging.

“The concept of productive aging really puts forward the fundamental view that we have to build the capacity of older adults to be better utilized in activities that make economic contributions to society — work, volunteering, caregiving, and education,” Gonzales said in his testimony.

“Yet cultural norms and social structures limit older adult’s full participation in these important productive roles. Ageism is expensive. It costs the U.S. $850 billion in GDP each year due to the untapped resources of producing goods and services by older workers.”

Gonzales called on Senators to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, a measure that GSA also supports. The act would reinstate well-established legal standards on workplace discrimination.

“Under optimal conditions, employment and civic engagement is associated with fewer depressive symptoms, lower risk of mortality and hypertension, improved cognitive functioning, and increased economic security,” Gonzales said.


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society.

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