Most people think of a “senior” or a retired person as someone who sits around in the back yard snoozing on and off or perhaps hitting the golf course for a round with his retired friends. After all, most retirees have spent decades rising and shining every day and working there as$$es off to provide for themselves and their families and deserve some time to relax and have some fun in their “golden years”. And in most cases, they really do deserve a chance to just hang out and not carry the weight on their shoulders they have had for most of their lives.
But a not-so-funny thing has happened to many older people these days. Many of them have found out that sitting around in retirement isn’t all that it was cracked up to be. There are a lot of reasons for that, so today’s post is something I can write about firsthand and with absolute certainty: why senior citizens want to stay in the workplace.
Has 70 Become the New 50?
In the year 2017, what do you think the age of a senior really is? Would it surprise you to learn that the answer to that question can vary dramatically? Some might say 50 and up, while others may answer 80+ depending on just who you ask. The reason for that is a bit muddled. There are so many variations in lifestyles of older people that it is really difficult to determine a person’s age just by looking. That is a good thing for many as they spend lots of time and money working at keeping themselves as active and involved as possible.
Many of those people just never do actually retire no matter how many birthdays they have celebrated. They may not be working in the same job that they have had for years and years, but who is it today that can say they have stayed long term in any job?
In many cases, people retire from one job and then after a brief respite, pursue another. Like a bee is drawn to pollen, working everyday becomes a habit and some retired folks just can’t stop that cycle.
Having the desire to continue to work or to postpone retirement is very much dependent on other issues besides your age. For one, in order to work, even a part-time job, you must have some degree of good health. The type of job that you might seek will vary of course depending on your physical and mental health, but it is a factor if you are not able to keep your work commitments because of it being poor.
When I retired it was because of my own health problems. I say retired because I did have to leave my job due to suffering a heart attack in 2012. I was “only” 62, and I never intended to stop working at that age. The health issues required me to stop and rebuild my strength and I hoped at some point I would be able to return to work. It wasn’t as easy as I thought however.
Another factor is financial security. Financial security for seniors today is written about and talked about an awful lot. The articles and blogs (this one as much as any of them) writing about saving and planning your finances for retirement are endless Many people talk about retiring long before they reach the traditional age of 65, 66, or 67 and plan “retirement” at age 50 or 40 or even 30! In order to feel any comfort with that, you must be concerned about money and the cost of living.
It is easy to see that each year it becomes a little more expensive to make ends meet let alone live in the same lifestyle you have when you are working and earning an income from it. Combine that fact with the threat of losing the support from Social Security and the increase in lifespan to on average nearing 80 years, and it’s pretty easy to see the challenges. If you throw in poor health factors, your desire or need to work as a senior may really be in question.
Not being financially prepared for retirement is one major reason why today’s seniors are looking to rejoin the workforce. Not being able to afford healthcare as you age is very scary. No one should have to make decisions as to whether or not to buy medicines or see a doctor because they can’t afford it.
Self-Esteem and Your Job
We aren’t really what the old expression says, “you are what you eat”. We are what we do! Our jobs really do define us and give us a sense of purpose and a feeling of self-worth and self-esteem. It’s really important to us. If you have ever been unemployed (and I am pretty sure that most of us have had that experience at least once) you will fully understand those feelings.
The idea that when you retire you get a bit bored and need something to keep you busy, while true, isn’t the biggest motivator for people to decide to find a job, at least not in my opinion. After contributing something and being productive every day for years and years, sitting in front of the TV watching “Green Acres” isn’t very fulfilling. For me, and many others, the need to feel like I am doing something important is deep and wide. It’s the very reason why I started writing here. I couldn’t lift 50 lb. bags or stand on my feet for 8 hours a day any longer, but I had a brain full of ideas and experiences that I thought could help others and I needed to make that happen.
Some people find that volunteer work fills the need, while others want to pursue a profession or even a new business. Whatever form that takes, it’s important to find a purpose.
Baby Boomers are Still Here
Those of us born between 1946 and 1964, the 76 million Baby Boomers, have been the center of our society for the past several decades. They are slowly fading, true. With the oldest ones now in their 70’s (the new 50’s of course!) and the youngest in their early 50’s, they will continue to be a factor for decades.
Having said that, the question is what will happen to them in the next phase of their lives? There is a great need for the experience and wisdom of this group to be a part of the 21st century and the attempt to solve some of the problems humanity is facing. There is also the great need to contribute and not just fade away.
Business has recognized the value of “senior workers” and is hiring them all the time these days. It may be part-time or full-time. It may be work from home. It may be mentoring and training younger workers. It may even be as a senior intern. All of those opportunities exist today as well as self-employment, freelancing and independent consulting work. This phase of life is often referred to as “the second act”. There is also the kind of thing I’m doing, blogging, which can fulfill the needs and earn some money too.
Are you planning to retire from the workforce? Have you financially prepared for it? What do you plan to do when you aren’t fighting traffic or working at a desk 50+ hours a week any longer? Will you seek a new “second act” or consider part-time work?