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Where older workers thrive

CHICAGO — With brands like Shout, Windex and Scrubbing Bubbles under its name, S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. certainly should be one of the cleanest companies to work for. But on Tuesday, AARP acknowledged the company for a different reason: Its policies and practices that make it the best workplace for those over the age of 50.

The Racine, Wis.-based company placed No. 1 on the 2007 AARP “Best Employers for Workers Over 50” list.

Reasons for the victory included the company’s range of flexible work arrangements, its generous health benefits that include an onsite medical center, its financial benefits and its retirement-planning tools. The company also provides lifelong learning and college-credit courses, many taught on site, said spokeswoman Kelly Semrau.

“A third of our employees are 50-plus” and many of them have worked at the company for years, Semrau said during a telephone interview. “Because this is such a great place to work, when you come here and do well, you don’t want to leave.”

No. 2 on the list was last year’s winner, Mercy Health System, based in Janesville, Wis. According to the AARP, the not-for-profit provides a variety of alternative work arrangements, which include opportunities for nurses to work at different facilities or departments and seasonal work programs that allow employees to take leave while maintaining their eligibility for benefits.

The list included no companies headquartered in the Pacific Northwest.

Third on the list was First Horizon National Corp. in Memphis, followed by San Diego-based Scripps Health and Muscatine, Iowa-based Stanley Consultants.

About 115 companies submitted an application to be included on the list, said Deborah Russell, director of work-force issues for AARP. Recruiting practices, opportunities for training, education and career development, workplace accommodations and alternative work options are just some areas that are considered before a company gains a spot on the top 50.

The top 10 companies will be highlighted in the November/December issue of the organization’s magazine, Russell said.

Nine of the top 10 best employers have been on the list before. The only newcomer to the top 10 was No. 8, George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., which encourages flextime and telecommuting for employees.