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Working Beyond Retirement Age

A recent AARP poll indicates that 70% to 80% percent of Americans plan to work in some capacity after retirement. Improvements in health care and the accompanying increases in longevity, coupled with concerns about changes in social security and other benefits are the primary reasons for this trend.

Movement away from Cliff Retirement

In the 20th century, the traditional approach to retirement was cliff retirement. People withdrew from full-time employment with the expectation of living their remaining years away from work. This approach is changing for a number of reasons:

  • Longevity has increased by an average of 18 years since the beginning of the twentieth century. People are not only living longer but also are in better health and, therefore, are more able to work.
  • Over the last 30 years, employment in industrialized countries has changed to predominantly services rather than manufacturing. The emphasis is on knowledge rather than physical labor, leaving more people in better physical condition after years of work and more able to work beyond the traditional retirement age.
  • Industrialized countries face a shrinking workforce, with labor shortages projected for the future. See the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) publication, Reforms for an Aging Society. A greater demand for older workers exists, and this demand will continue to increase as the large baby-boomer generation reaches retirement age.
  • More people will need to earn income into retirement to make their savings stretch. Social programs that retirees once depended upon, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are financially unsustainable, and no clear pathway to reform has appeared on the horizon. In addition, increased longevity means that more people will live for 30 or more years after traditional retirement age.
  • Many people 55 and older want to continue working. Many prefer to work on a part-time basis. Many recognize that they will be living longer and don’t want to sit on the sidelines during those additional years.

Movement toward Phased Retirement and Bridge Jobs

People are increasingly looking for opportunities for phased retirement. Work can take many forms:

  • Reduced working hours per day
  • Reduced working days
  • Flexible working times
  • Seasonal work
  • Job sharing
  • Telecommuting (working from home through telecommunications)
  • Different work assignments (for example, mentoring or training younger workers, working in a new functional or business area)
  • Project-based assignments

Some retired workers take bridge jobs—jobs that may carry less responsibility or less stress and provide a way to phase down from full-time work rather than to phase out completely.

Organizational Changes

Many companies and organizations are revising their employment policies and practices to be more flexible and to facilitate using the talents and capabilities of older workers. Some of the ways they are changing include:
Providing training programs for older workers to maintain their skills and abilities
Including a segment on the management of older workers in programs about diversity training for managers

  • Providing life and retirement education for workers as they approach retirement age
  • Providing a range of options for phased retirement
  • Revising pension plans to eliminate penalties or disincentives for extended working careers
  • Offering prorated employee benefits
  • Providing a retention bonus payable after a fixed additional period

Help in Finding Employment

An increasing number of organizations are available to help place older adults in jobs. Staffing services, such as Retirement Enterprises, specialize in placing mature workers, and governmental programs, such as the Senior Community Service Employment Program, offer employment and training to qualified individuals. Also check our additional resources.


Check our Additional Resources for more information


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