Grandparents Day Drives Home Importance of Paid Leave

Sep 06, 2013

by Lauren French

This Sunday, September 8, marks the annual celebration of National Grandparents Day. This holiday reminds us of the critical support that paid leave provides in caring for our older Americans. Paid leave greatly improves the quality of life and economic security of seniors by allowing them to address their own health needs while remaining in the workforce, and by allowing working family members to provide quality care to elder loved ones.

The face of our workforce is changing, with more adults working later in life. Changes in our economy mean that about 30 percent of adults over the standard retirement age of 65 are still employed. Workers in this age range are more likely to face illness or injury, which may require them to take leave. Two out of three older adults have multiple chronic health conditions which account for 66 percent of this country's health care budget; paid leave is necessary to allow these workers to keep their jobs while also taking care of their health and that of their spouse. Providing paid leave is so important because older workers are such an invaluable asset to our economy. The wealth of knowledge and experience brought to the workplace by older workers benefits not only that particular job, but also serves as an education for younger workers and the workforce overall. Furthermore, these workers are often critical to providing economic security to their families, which in turn keeps our economy stable.

Another important function of paid leave in providing support for older Americans relates to the cost of elder care for working family members. As people grow older they are more likely to require care after an injury or illness, which is often provided by family members. About one in five workers now report having responsibilities related to the care of an older adult. For many Americans, while caring for a parent or grandparents is a labor of love, it is also a second or third job, and it is often taken on in addition to responsibilities for their own children.

Although there are nearly 43.5 million adults over 50 caring for older family members in the United States, many of them do not have access to paid leave to provide proper care while balancing their work obligations. In 2012, one in three workers who reported taking family or medical leave received no pay during their leave. This is especially significant considering that low-income workers, who can least afford to take unpaid leave, are twice as likely to face elder care demands compared to their higher-income counterparts. Without paid leave, caregivers are faced with the tremendous stress of being forced to sacrifice their job security and economic well-being to assure that their loved ones are being cared for.

On Grandparents Day, it is important that we recognize the increasing need for paid leave in providing proper care for our older loved ones. Without paid leave, seniors and their family members are often forced to choose between their economic security and the health of themselves or their loved ones. Let's honor our grandparents this holiday by fighting for paid family and medical leave to assure our loved ones will be cared for in the best possible manner.  

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