Working into Later Life ~ A Mixed Bag of Options

  By Dr. Frank Burtnett  |    Sunday March 11, 2019

Category: Columns, Expert Advice, Productivity

Numerous studies of workplace demographics are validating what search and staffing professional have been witnessing since the beginning of the current millennium---the workforce is getting older. The reason(s) older Americans are continuing to work vary, but the following four reasons are among those often cited: 

  • Longer life-expectancy leading to improved health and physical conditions that result in a desire to remain active and engaged.
  • Inadequate financial preparation for retirement.
  • Desire to fortify financial situation.
  • Career and occupational requirements that are less demanding of older workers 


Numbers Tell the Story

The image of persons aged 65+ sitting in a rocking chair somewhere gazing contentedly off into space is more a myth than reality. Studies conducted by such organizations and agencies as the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Council on Aging, the Society of Human Resource Management, and American Association of Retired Persons reflect the following demographic trends:

  • • Older Americans comprise a significant part of the workforce ~ 33 million Americans aged 55+ were employed, and another 1.3 million were actively seeking work in 2015. 
  • • Seniors 65+ in the workforce grew from 6.6% in 2011 to 8.9% in 2016 ~ A significant jump for the age group. 
  • • Older workers outnumber the youngest members of the workforce ~ Nearly twice as many older workers aged 65+ were employed in 2015 than teenage workers (8.4 million vs. 4.7 million)
  • • Part-time work is growing in appeal ~ Significant numbers of older workers want to scale back, but remain in the workplace.
  • • Women are targeting longer work lives ~ While older men currently exceed their women counterparts in current later life employment, the work goals of younger women are similar to those of men.

A Look at the Options

There are minimally five ways to stay active career wise and each can be considered by those reaching the senior life stage and contemplating continued engagement in the workforce. 


Option A ~ Keep Career Alive

This arrangement is intended for those who are content and satisfied with their current employment situation and desire to keep doing what they do for the foreseeable future. Holding on to valued employees is growing in popularity with employers that recognize the substantial costs and time associated that are associated with recruiting new employees to replace experienced and productive workers.


Option B ~ Same Work, Different Circumstances

This scheme appeals to those who would like their work and employment situation, but are open to performing their occupational tasks according to an adapted format (i.e., telecommuting, modified responsibilities, alternative schedule, etc.). Satisfied employees able to create a new and different relationship with their existing employer often find it the best way to wind down eventually exit into full time retirement on their terms.


Option C ~ Same Work Via a Contractual Arrangement

This alternative way of continuing in the workforce is similar to Option B, but different in that the individual now offers his/her talents and capabilities to multiple employers. It involves converting their acquired knowledge, skillset and competence into an “expert for hire” consulting arrangement, a modification that allows them to work as hard and as much as they desire.


Option D ~ Career Renaissance

The winding down and exit period of any career offers many the opportunity to take on a second or different career. This option appeals to entrepreneurs and those with an itch to try something entirely new and different. It may entail recycling through some of the earlier stages of the career development process (i.e. going back to school, earning a different credential, etc.), but a “makeover” of this nature allows the individual to fulfill career challenges and options that may have held a prominent place on their “bucket list.”


Option E ~ Work without Compensation

Volunteerism and service offering are becoming a major way in which many seniors are “giving back” to ventures and causes to which they have become attached over time, as well as those they couldn’t help during the more active periods in their careers. Whether a known school, college, community organization, faith-based group or a concern that suddenly appears on their radar for the first time, many seniors find engagement and connection with entities of this nature a perfect way to remain active and engaged.

Any senior that doesn’t find a desirable scheme among the above might wish to go to the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) Job Board at This online, user friendly service allows users to match their work experiences with employers who are committed to an age-diverse workforce. Users can filter the possibilities by how they work, where they want to work and the type of employment arrangement (full-time or part-time) they seek.

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