I recently read an article about Judith Lister, a 71 year old kindergarten teacher, that highlighted a current trend in our workforce. Aging adults are staying in the workforce longer and not retiring as early as they previously had. In addition, people that were previously retired are coming out of retirement and rejoining the workforce. I thought this was both surprising and interesting because I never really gave much thought to the amount of elderly adults that chose to forego retirement, and instead continue their careers.
Apparently it is a trend that has been steadily increasing over the years, and not just in the United States. Other countries like Japan and the UK are also experiencing an increase of “grey beards” in their workforce. Since May of 2000 to May of 2016, the percentage of people over 65 that are employed has increased from 12.8% to 18.8%. I feel like that is a significant increase in just 16 years, especially when you consider out aging population is also expanding because people are living longer.
Personally, I think this trend does make a lot of sense though. The age of retirement has increased, and many older adults are living longer and healthier lives. As a result, I would imagine many of them would want to stay more active and keep busy. One productive way to do that is to have a job. Jobs are great tools to help adults find new acquaintances and remain social. For example, an elderly man I worked with loved talking to customers when he worked at a retail store with me. He enjoyed work even though he was in his early 70’s because of the social interactions. Additionally, jobs require mental and physical stamina, which can be very beneficial for fighting off signs of aging in elderly adults.
Another reason I imagine older adults may want to stay in the workforce is simply for the money. It is very hard for an elderly person to retire and live solely off of a social security check. Especially when you factor in an increased life expectancy and increases in medical bills as they age. Additionally, many people do not have adequate savings funds established to help cover the costs of daily life after retirement. This creates a situation where older people have to keep working into their retirement age because they can’t afford to not work.
I can definitely see where having more elderly people remain in the workforce could affect the availability of jobs for younger people entering the workforce, but also I think it’s a natural effect of our aging population. It seems logical that having people live longer will also cause them to work longer as well. I don’t believe people should be too concerned about our changing workforce dynamics.
Cultural Fun Fact!
In 2007 the German car company, BMW, spent $50,000 remodeling one of their assembly lines in Bavaria to accommodate older employees. They made small changes, like adding chairs for elderly employees to sit on as they worked, and installing larger fonts on their computers to make reading easier. These changes increased productivity by 7%, so the older employees became just as efficient as the younger employees. It also dropped absenteeism by 2%.