Meet the Age Smart Employer Award Winners!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Contact: Stephanie Berger  
(212) 305-4372
[email protected]



National Grid, Silvercup Studios, and Urban Health Plan are among winners who hire, retain and engage workers of all ages with top policies and practices.

(New York, January 17, 2018) – The Columbia Aging Center announced six winners of the Age Smart Employer Awards, which honor employers who value older workers and workers of all ages. These age smart employers stood out among 100 applicants – twice the number that applied previously – including businesses and nonprofit organizations from all five boroughs and a broad array of sectors.

“The Age Smart Employers are leaders – ahead of the curve – adopting practices that make work work for their employees,” said Dr. Ruth Finkelstein, Associate Director of the Columbia Aging Center and founder of the awards. “So many of these practices help older, experienced workers stay on the job (or join the firm) AND help younger workers, too.”

The winners include:

Lee Spring (Spring manufacturer, 79 NYC employees) This factory within the Brooklyn Army Terminal makes springs for everything from eyeglasses to airplanes. Contending with a shortage of skilled laborers, the company offers ample internal advancement opportunities, flexibility for workers on the administrative side to change work locations or hours, and is developing a partnership with a German coiling conference to start a four-month training academy on Long Island.

From Lee Spring CEO Steve Kempf:
 “Lee Spring values all of our employees, and we have benefited from excellent retention through the years. There are times when we have had to make adjustments as a person ages, and it has often been a win-win for both the employee and company. For example, we have moved employees from manufacturing to engineering, and their specialized manufacturing experience has improved the overall group by adding a practical knowledge that comes with time making our products.”

National Grid (Utility company, 2,485 NYC employees) A supplier of natural gas, electricity, and increasingly more green energy sources in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the United Kingdom, National Grid recruits experienced workers directly from competitors, makes paths to advancement clear, and invites retirees to work as instructors in training centers or during emergencies.

From Keith Hutchison, SVP, U.S. Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer:
 “National Grid recognizes that our employees are vital to successfully delivering the energy that more than 20 million people rely on in the Northeast. We are as dedicated to our employees as they are to our customers. We are proud of our comprehensive compensation, benefits and wellbeing programs that respond to the needs of a multi-generational workforce.”

PKF O’Connor Davies: (Accounting firm, 742 New York area employees) This mid-sized accounting firm hires partners who are forced to retire from competing accounting firms. A 360-degree review program and monthly employee survey assure that staff has the chance to propose ideas and implement change.  

From Tom Blaney, partner and executive committee member at PKF O’Connor Davies: “At PKF O’Connor Davies, we’ve worked hard to create a culture of inclusion where professionals of all ages and experience levels learn from one another and push each other to be the best they can be. You see that collaboration in action here every day at our firm, and the work we deliver for clients is better for it. We are honored to be among the finalists for the Age Smart Employer Awards because it truly embodies who we are as an organization.”

Silvercup Studios: (Film and TV production facilities, 49 employees) More than half the employees at NYC’s largest full-service film and television facility are over age 50. The company has restructured jobs and used phased retirement to keep engaging their older workforce. They have also hired people in their 50s and 60s.

From Alan Suna, CEO of Silvercup Studios and Principal of Silvercup Properties: “We value older employees, whether they were hired past the age of 50, or have been with us a number of years. In fact, we have many staff members over age 50 that have been working with us 10, 20, even 30 years. While they may have started out as ‘youngsters,’ now in their late 50’s and early 60’s, they bring a wealth of knowledge gained during their tenure that is hard for us to duplicate.”

Urban Health Plan, (Nonprofit healthcare provider, 897 employees) Urban Health Plan makes a point of hiring residents of the communities it serves, including people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. A rigorous and ongoing training process that includes mentorship prepares many employees to rise through the ranks.

From Paloma Hernandez, Urban Health Plan President and CEO: “Urban Health Plan values having a variety of generations in the workplace because every associate brings unique experiences and insight that contributes to the diversity of our workplace. We’ve created an environment to make every member of our community feel celebrated, supported and accepted.”

Riverdale Country School (Private school, 345 employees) This Bronx-based Pre-K through 12 school retains teachers and staff with benefits like sabbaticals after 10 years for faculty, “passion grants” for all workers to support their interests, and job restructuring to make duties less strenuous, as when former classroom teachers were reassigned as environmental educators, or when a custodian became a security guard.

From Riverdale’s Head of School, Dominic A.A. Randolph: "As a school that believes wholly in multigenerational and lifelong learning, we aim to craft policies and practices that support those beliefs. We are lucky to have a community that fully embraces the positive influence of older individuals upon the lives of young people.”

Other honorees for the Age Smart Employer Award include:

The Bronx Zoo, which accommodates the personal needs of its more than 2,000 employees by being flexible with scheduling, modifying roles as workers’ abilities change, and providing ample training and advancement opportunities.

Diller-Quaile School of Music, where teachers enjoy flexible hours, graduate-level training and lessons from world-renowned musicians, creativity grants, and a peer support initiative.
Educational Alliance, a social services agency, which gives grants to employees to execute program innovations, retrains workers to take on new jobs, and hires older employees who have worked in other industries.

Sew Right, a shop for sewing machines, fabric and sewing lessons where every full-time employee is over age 50. Workers are encouraged to suggest improvements to the business, given opportunities to attend conferences and trained weekly to understand new products and sales methods.

Steinway & Sons, which has continuous improvement workshops for employees, a safety-enhancing “near misses” process, documenting situations where accidents were averted, and collaboration between various departments to troubleshoot problems and encourage employee input into improving processes.

Veselka, a diner that hires a substantial number older people as dishwashers, cooks, managers and servers, while also letting them transition to shorter hours as they approach retirement.

WithumSmith+Brown, an accounting firm that gives staff input into workspace design, gives everyone a mentor, provides phased retirement, lets accountants set their hours, and has a distinctive suite of great benefits, like monetary awards for good work, shadow stock, a wellness program, and a hardship relief fund.

The Age Smart Employer Award, in its third cycle, is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The award selection committee, composed of New York City leaders in business, workforce development, and academia, looked for finalists that demonstrated 10 employment practices that support an age smart workplace. These practices include: Great benefits, opportunities for advancement, responsiveness to employees’ ideas to improve the physical work environment, a culture and atmosphere that demonstrates workers are valued, training at all career levels, educational opportunities, flexible work arrangements, job restructuring to accommodate employees’ changing needs, phased retirement, and work or volunteer opportunities for retirees.

Award winners and honorees are available for interviews, video and photo opportunities.