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Survey Shows Intergenerational Solidarity at Work

Older workers have a strong desire to help younger people succeed

By Jim Emerman and

A new national survey sponsored by and Participant Media, the entertainment company responsible for such socially relevant films as An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., and Waiting for Superman, finds that people 50 and older are indeed interested in helping younger generations, despite the oft-repeated claims that competition over jobs is pushing younger and older workers into a zero-sum game.

The Marigold Effect study – inspired by this summer’s hit movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, about finding a renewed sense of purpose in later life – reinforced previous findings by and others about the dire impact of the recession on the economic prospects of people over 50.
For example, 60 percent of people in that age group feel that their peers have a harder time staying in the workforce than younger people have entering it. Of those still working, more than a quarter say their economic situations have worsened a great deal since the start of the recession.
But they strongly empathize with the plight of their juniors, with 87 percent agreeing that it’s harder now for younger people to find work than it was for them when they were young. And by a strong majority (65 percent), they reject the idea that older people holding onto their jobs is causing the tough employment situation for younger people.
The survey’s findings show that people 50-plus have a strong desire to help younger people succeed. This experienced group considers mentoring to be best way to help younger adults weather the job crisis. More than 80 percent of those who are currently working say they would be willing to mentor younger people entering their fields, even if they had to sacrifice their own free time. Nearly 70 percent are either very or somewhat willing to take some other action that involves a financial sacrifice, such as cutting work hours or pay.
Edda Marzan, exemplifies this trend. A former IRS branch chief, Marzan volunteered for years at her grandson’s elementary and middle schools – helping in the office and serving on the PTA. Then she found out about ReServe, a national nonprofit that places people 55 and older in part-time, temporary, minimum-wage positions in public agencies and nonprofits.
Marzan now works with ReServe’s New York-based READY program, which helps high school students apply for college and secure financial aid, in turn helping cash-strapped high schools with understaffed counseling offices.
“I love working with teenagers,” Marzan says.

The Marigold Effect study was part of the social-action campaign for the Fox Searchlight-Participant film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, available on DVD. The movie follows a group of British retirees whose lives are transformed when they move unwittingly to a rundown hotel in India.
The “Marigold Effect” refers to the idea that older individuals can play second acts for the greater good and benefit personally by applying their experience and wisdom to help younger people through tough times. The character played by Judi Dench in the film exemplifies the “Marigold Effect” when she takes an encore job training young Indian workers in telephone sales.
The nationally representative online survey of 1,015 adults 50 and older was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland Aug. 3-6, 2012, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.07 percent.

To see more research by, check out

Jim Emerman is Executive Vice President of, which is building a movement to make it easier for millions of people to pursue second acts for the greater good. He is one of the principal members of the teams conducting research into encore careers. Read More
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