Older adults are just as capable as younger adults at the workplace. In fact, jobs that require social skills, accumulated knowledge, and relevant experiences favor older adults (Erber & Szuchman, 2015). Older adults also demonstrate lower rates of absenteeism and greater investment in their work. In 2015, 8.8 million adults aged 65 or older were employed or actively seeking employment. This constituted about 5.6% of the U.S. labor force (AOA, 2016).
Transitioning into Retirement
For most Americans, retirement is a process and not a one-time event (Quinn & Cahill, 2016). Sixty percent of workers transition straight to bridge jobs, which are often part-time, and occur between a career and full retirement. About 15% of workers get another job after being fully retired. This may be due to not having adequate finances after retirement or not enjoying their retirement. Some of these jobs may be in encore careers, or work in a different field from the one in which they retired. Approximately 10% of workers begin phasing into retirement by reducing their hours. However, not all employers will allow this due to pension regulations.
Retirement age changes
Looking at retirement data, the average age of retirement declined from more than 70 in 1910 to age 63 in the early 1980s. However, this trend has reversed and the current average age is now 65. Additionally, 18.5% of those over the age of 65 continue to work (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012) compared with only 12% in 1990 (U. S. Government Accountability Office, 2011). With individuals living longer, once retired the average amount of time a retired worker collects social security is approximately 17-18 years (James, Matz-Costa, & Smyer, 2016).
When to retire
Laws often influence when someone decides to retire. In Canada the age for full benefits is 65 years, although retirement is nonmandatory. However, there has been a movement to raise the age to 67 in view of evidence that having healthy Canadians 65 and up work longer would be good for the economy and for the workers (Taylor, 2019). In 1986 in the U.S., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was amended, and mandatory retirement was eliminated for most workers (Erber & Szuchman, 2015). Pilots, air traffic controllers, federal law enforcement, national park rangers, and fire fighters continue to have enforced retirement ages. Consequently, for most workers they can continue to work if they choose and are able. Social security benefits also play a role. For those born before 1938, they can receive full social security benefits at age 65. For those born between 1943 and 1954, they must wait until age 66 for full benefits, and for those born after 1959 they must wait until age 67 (Social Security Administration, 2016). Extra months are added to those born in years between. For example, if born in 1957, the person must wait until 66 years and 6 months. The longer one waits to receive social security, the more money will be paid out. Those retiring at age 62, will only receive 75% of their monthly benefits. Medicare health insurance is another U.S. entitlement that is not available until one is aged 65.
Older adults primarily choose to delay retirement due to economic reasons (Erber & Szchman, 2015). Financially, continuing to work provides not only added income, but also does not dip into retirement savings which may not be sufficient. Historically, there have been three parts to retirement income; that is, social security, a pension plan, and individual savings (Quinn & Cahill, 2016). With the 2008 recession, pension plans lost value for most workers. Consequently, many older workers have had to work later in life to compensate for absent or minimal pension plans and personal savings. Social security was never intended to replace full income, and the benefits provided may not cover all the expenses, so older people continue to work. Unfortunately, many older individuals are unable to secure later employment, and those especially vulnerable include persons with disabilities, single women, the oldest- old, and individuals with intermittent work histories.
Some older adults delay retirement for psychological reasons, such as health benefits and social contacts. Recent research indicates that delaying retirement has been associated with helping one live longer. When looking at both healthy and unhealthy retirees, a one-year delay in retiring was associated with a decreased risk of death from all causes (Wu, Odden, Fisher, & Stawski, 2016). When individuals are forced to retire due to health concerns or downsizing, they are more likely to have negative physical and psychological consequences (Erber & Szuchman, 2015).
Atchley (1994) identified several phases that individuals ago through when they retire:
- Remote pre-retirement phase includes fantasizing about what one wants to do in retirement
- Immediate pre-retirement phase when concrete plans are established
- Actual retirement
- Honeymoon phase when retirees travel and participate in activities they could not do while working
- Disenchantment phase when retirees experience an emotional let-down
- Reorientation phase when the retirees attempt to adjust to retirement by making less hectic plans and getting into a regular routine
Not everyone goes through every stage, but this model demonstrates that retirement is a process.
Those who look most forward to retirement and have plans are those who anticipate adequate income (Erber & Szuchman, 2015). This is especially true for males who have worked consistently and have a pension and/or adequate savings. Once retired, staying active and socially engaged is important. Volunteering, caregiving and informal helping are pathways to engagement for everyone and especially for older people. Kaskie, Imhof, Cavanaugh and Culp (2008) found that 70% of retirees who are not involved in productive activities spent most of their time watching TV, which is correlated with negative affect. In contrast, being productive improves well-being.
Older People and Education
Attending college is not just for the young as discussed in the previous chapter. There are many reasons why an older person chooses to attend college. PNC Financial Services surveyed retirees aged 70 and over, and found that 58% indicated that they had retired before they had planned (Holland, 2014). Many of these individuals chose to pursue additional training to improve skills to return to work in a second career. Others may be looking to take their career in a new direction. For some older students who no longer are focusing on financial reasons, returning to school is intended to enable them to pursue work that is personally fulfilling. Attending university or college as an older person is also a great way to keep sharp mentally.
Even if an older person chooses not to attend college for a degree, there are many continuing education programs on topics of interest available. In 1975, a nonprofit educational travel organization called Elderhostel began in New Hampshire with five programs for several hundred retired participants (DiGiacomo, 2015). This program combined college classroom time with travel tours and experiential learning experiences. In 2010 the organization changed its name to Road Scholar, and it now serves 100,000 people per year in 150 countries. Academic courses, as well as practical skills such as computer classes, foreign languages, budgeting, and holistic medicines, are among the courses offered. Older adults who have higher levels of education are more likely to take continuing education. However, offering more educational experiences to a diverse group of older adults, including those who are institutionalized in nursing homes, can enhance the quality of life, just as it can for nay of us at any time in life.