T he face of retirement in America is changing
dramatically, as many seniors put to rest the idea that the “golden years” mean saying goodbye to work and becoming a permanent fixture in a comfortable recliner.
AARP recently announced the findings of its 2003 Working in Retirement Survey, which showed that many seniors plan to work well into their retirement years. The poll of 2,001 persons between the ages of 50 and 70 who work full or part time was meant to explore the definition of retirement, and its implications, and to understand the experiences and desires of working “retirees.”
“Older workers today look for and expect dynamic retirements. They want stimulating environments where they have plenty of choices about how they spend the rest of their lives,” said a summary analysis of the research. “Although most who are approaching retirement envision their retirement as a period that will include leisurely pursuits, new experiences, and time spent with loved ones, the majority also expect their retirements to include some form of work.”
Nearly 70 percent who said they haven’t yet retired expect to keep working into those traditional retirement years, most in part-time employment, with a handful planning to never retire. The survey said almost 50 percent plan to work into their 70s or beyond.
The details of the survey show that while the financial rationale is important, the quality-of-life benefits are key factors. The intangibles — the desire to remain active physically and mentally, to do something enjoyable, to help other people — when taken together outweigh financial considerations.
When those who plan to work in retirement were asked to choose just one of a number of major factors to identify their reason, 22 percent said they needed the money, the No. 1 single answer. That was followed by 17 percent who said they’ll need health benefits.
But the non-financial factors were significant as the value of work personally and socially played a major role for working seniors: 15 percent said they wanted to stay active mentally; 14 percent said they desired to remain productive or useful; and 9 percent said they wanted to stay physically active.
Other answers included the desire to help people (6 percent); do something fun and enjoyable (5 percent); be around others (4 percent) and learn new things (2 percent).
Demographically, the aging of America will mean that our labor force will become more dependent upon seasoned workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that by 2010, 17 percent of the workforce will be made up of workers 55 and older; in 2000 that percentage was 13 percent. At the same, workers between the ages of 25 to 54 are expected to decline.
America needs these mature workers in the workforce with their knowledge and experience that only the years can provide.
When seniors work, they help themselves beyond a paycheck and society benefits, as well.