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Why are more and more Americans still working into their 80s?

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Why are more and more Americans still working into their 80s?

When Fred Strnisa, 81, a professor of semiconductor manufacturing technology at Hudson Valley Community College , sees an acquaintance’s name on an obituary or a cold winter wind blows, , Sternisa will wonder if she should retire.

Then he would quickly drop the idea. “I prefer my current job to retirement,” Sternisa said.

Sternisa is also popular with students and tutors at the academy. He came to the college in 2001 after a variety of careers in business, academia and state government. After retiring for the first time at the age of 55, Sternisa opened a business selling used cars and then applied for a job as a physics teacher at Hudson Valley Community College.

The job allows him to maintain his brain power and reach students of all ages. “My job is not to give them the answers, but to guide them to the answers,” Sternisa said.

The job also gave Sternisa a sense of purpose and helped him move through some tragic moments in his life, including the death of his youngest daughter earlier this year.

Not many Americans are still working in their 80s. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) , only 5.3% of people aged 80 and older are working or actively looking for work. But that proportion is expected to rise as the baby boom generation turns 90, with the oldest baby boomer turning 80 in 2026.

The number of workers age 75 and older is expected to grow 78% from 2022 to 2023, the largest increase of any age group, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. A recent survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that almost half of baby boomers are still working after age 70 or plan to continue working.

The baby boomer generation will change the makeup of the U.S. workforce. Is the U.S. ready for this? “We’ve been telling employers for the last 20 years that they have to prepare for this, and I think the message is,” said Jacquelyn James, founder of the Sloan Research Network on Aging & Work. It’s spreading.”

Of course, the rising 80-something workforce is not the first generation. The median age of U.S. senators is 65. Among business executives, executives in their 70s are common, and even some in their 90s. executives, don’t forget, Buffett is 93 years old.

Changes in the civilian labor force of different age groups in the United States: The working population aged 70 and above is the fastest growing part of the labor force

But the number of baby boomers means some unprecedented changes in the workplace and the economy. Whether it’s giving a boost to a short-supplied labor market or solving problems such as age discrimination in the workplace, they can still play a role as changemakers in their 80s.

Ken Dychtwald, founder and CEO of Age Wave, a think tank and consultancy, said: “For decades, people have thought that older people do nothing but go on vacation, but I think a transformative moment has arrival.”

One thing is for sure, if seniors want to retire, they should have that option. Co-editor of the recent book Overtime: America’s Aging Workforce and the Future of Working Longer , WE Upjohn Institute for Employment Research ) researcher Beth Truesdale said Americans should have policies to help them save enough money to enjoy retirement, and financial security should not depend on the ability to work indefinitely.

But in reality, many Americans don’t have enough saved to live comfortably in retirement , and for them, continuing to work is more of a necessity than a choice.

Looking ahead to a future where more and more people will be working for longer, we can learn a lot from the 80-year-olds who have already taken their place in today’s workplace, whether they do it for the love of their job or if they want to Keeping busy, or simply because they have to, these seniors’ stories open a window into the future of work.

financial needs

The workforce is not changing fast enough to cope with the looming retirement crisis. According to an Employee Benefit Institute analysis of the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, the median savings for households ages 60 to 65 with household incomes between $71,000 and $126,000 is about $150,000. . The median savings of high-income households is $535,000, which is still not enough to last for decades in retirement. Working longer can increase household savings.

Louise McMillon , 85, has worked since she was 11 but didn’t save much money during her career. While raising her seven children in Charlotte, North Carolina, she worked a series of jobs in restaurants, retail and education. McMillan has Social Security, but she said, “If I had to rely on just that check, I’d probably be living on the streets.”

McMillan currently works as a receptionist at a Lowe’s store in Charlotte, working from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday. This income is crucial to maintaining her standard of living, but to her, this job is more than just an income. “I know everyone in the community and I love my job,” McMillan said.

Louise MacMillan works as a waitress at a Lowe’s in Charlotte, North Carolina , and hopes to work until she’s 90.

The job also brings a lot of feedback to MacMillan. She said that if customers didn’t see her, they would inevitably ask someone if she was okay. When chronic sciatica made it difficult for her to stand in the doorway of a store, the company gave her a backless bench, and when she told the company it was more uncomfortable than standing, the company upgraded the bench to a padded rocking chair.

Such arrangements must become more common, but New School economics professor Teresa Ghilarducci said that in many cases workers still face the risk of potentially losing their jobs when they request adjustments because of age-related issues. .

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes that determining the prevalence of age discrimination in the workplace is difficult, in large part because many instances go unreported. In 2022, the agency received 11,500 age discrimination claims. An AARP poll last year showed that nearly two-thirds of workers age 50 and older believed older workers were discriminated against in the workplace, and 17% said they were paid less at work. 13% of people who had experienced negative comments about their age said they had missed out on promotion opportunities because of their age.

Girarducci’s advice to these employees is to hide their age as much as possible. She means not only hiding their birth year, but also avoiding any behavior that makes them look old. Don’t blame them for bad joints. Self-deprecating jokes.

physical and cognitive health

Ellyn, 80 , still works part-time as a seamstress in a men’s clothing store where she has worked for the past 20 years (Ellyn is not giving her last name for privacy reasons) . She said the income is optional, but will allow her to continue buying some of her favorite non-essential items, such as magazine and newspaper subscriptions. With this income, Erin can stay put without touching her retirement account, which she plans to leave to her children.

Erin is concerned that current and future retirees may have fewer resources. “The retirement prospects for people in many parts of the country are very bad, and they don’t realize it yet,” she said.

But for Erin, the job brought a different dynamic, a place where she could “put her energy in.” Although Erin doesn’t interact directly with customers, she gets along well with the store owners. On weekdays, she parks far away from the store and walks to exercise. On days when she’s not working, Erin tends roses at her home near Iowa City, Iowa, “which keeps me moving and active,” she says.

Physical activity benefits both the brain and the body, and research on exercise and brain health is well established. One study found that inactive adults experienced cognitive decline about twice as fast as those who exercised.

Estimates of the prevalence of cognitive decline in older adults vary, said James of the Sloan Research Network. A recent Columbia University study found that nearly 10% of adults age 65 and older have dementia, and an additional 22% have mild cognitive impairment.

But “most people won’t experience the kind of decline that affects their jobs,” James said. She also noted that older people do have slower reaction times, but their wisdom, experience and problem-solving skills often make up for that.

More importantly, the work itself keeps one sharp. Age Wave’s Deichwald said: “Sitting and watching TV is bad for brain health.”

Phyllis Mussina, 85, agrees. Earlier this year, when the aged care facility where she worked was restructured, she quit her job as marketing director because she was unhappy with her new bosses. Musina plans to keep working, she said: “You have to do something that allows you to keep using your brain.”

Since resigning, Musina has been busy visiting friends and residents of the aged care facilities where she worked, and she has also been involved in the periodic work many older people do after retiring from full-time employment, providing informal consultation on aged care issues. , and serves on two nonprofit boards.

Musina said she has received many job offers in recent months, both full-time and part-time, but has turned them down because she is leaving the medical field and is considering launching a magazine to help seniors choose living facilities. “I don’t like not working,” she said.

If she starts a business, Musina will be one of the few oldest entrepreneurs. According to a report on the aging workforce written by James for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, just over 15% of employed women age 80 and older were entrepreneurs in 2019, and among men, the proportion of entrepreneurs was nearly Quarter.

sense of purpose

According to a recent report from Age Wave and Edward Jones, nearly a quarter of retirees say they struggle to find purpose in life. Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning is crucial for emotional and physical health, and a 2017 study found that an increased sense of purpose in older adults reduced risks such as weakened grip strength and reduced walking speed.

Michael Hacker, 80 , is happiest when seeing students immersed in their projects, a goal that drives him as co-director of Hofstra University’s Center for STEM Research He solicits and manages grants from the National Science Foundation to give students the opportunity to solve real-world challenges such as water shortages.

Huck’s current job has undergone some changes from the work he did earlier in his career. Earlier in his career, he worked as a teacher, working at the New York State Department of Education to develop standards for technology literacy, a measure of how much students know about technology subjects. “I had a huge belief in that job,” he said.

Over time Huck began to realize how focusing too much on standards could deprive students of the joy of learning. Teaching background knowledge is important, he said, but so is allowing students to experience the “flow state” of being fully immersed in their work.

Harker, who drives that message by managing grants at the school, speaking at conferences and publishing articles in academic journals, is not prepared to give up his role in the public eye. “One of the reasons I continue to work is because I have a podium that I want to be on as long as I can,” Haack said.

(The content of this article is for reference only and does not constitute any form of investment or financial advice; the market is risky, so investment must be cautious.)

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