Older Adults Are Quietly Returning to the Workplace

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorThe U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of individuals over 75 years of age who are either working or actively looking for work will grow 96.5% by 2030. Those over 75 are the only age group whose labor force participation rate is projected to rise in the next 8 years. This can be attributed in part to the fact that the American population, as a whole, is shifting towards higher numbers of older adults, but the numbers also show that a higher percentage of the older adult population is returning to the workplace. Retirement is often the goal of one’s entire professional life, so why are we seeing so many retirees reentering the workforce?

Many choose to go back to work because of the emotional, psychological, or financial benefits that come along with having a job. A job provides daily structure, social connections, and a sense of purpose or responsibility that is lost for some, when they enter retirement. A 2022 survey conducted by Joblist found that 60% of surveyed returning retirees were primarily “looking for something to do,” and 53% reported being happy about going back to work. Today’s gig economy and heightened focus on hybrid/remote work has made reentering the workforce more appealing for older adults. Returning to work no longer means a daily commute and 9-5 hours. Gig opportunities such as Airbnb, Uber driving, or freelancing, allow older adults to work on their own terms, and many employers now offer hybrid or fully remote positions for those wishing to work from the comfort of their homes.

However, for some, returning to work doesn’t feel like a choice, it’s a necessity. According to a Kaiser Family foundation analysis, approximately 1 in 3 adults age 65 or older are economically insecure. A decades-high inflation rate has people paying higher prices at the gas pump, in grocery stores, and for home utilities, all while the falling stock market has impacted those with 401(k) retirement plans.

Whereas over 2 million workers entered retirement during the first 18 months of the pandemic, according to Forbes, many are ‘quietly returning’ to the workplace. Others are opting to forestall retirement due to looming financial concerns.

According to a Kaiser Family foundation analysis, approximately 1 in 3 adults age 65 or older are economically insecure.

Nationwide, with more than 10 million job openings, there are currently close to 2 jobs available for every unemployed adult. The longstanding notion, established during the depression, that older workers should step aside to make room for younger workers is fading. Yet, according to AARP, nearly 80% of older workers in 2022, report they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. This is the highest share since the group began asking the question in 2003. Age discrimination in the workplace manifests in job eliminations, in promotions, and in job advertisements.

Zippia, an online career expert, identifies some of the most common ageist stereotypes related to people over the age of 50. These assumptions include that older adults are difficult to manage, resistant to change, technophobic, and less innovative. As is typically true with negative stereotypes, these notions are based on false assumptions and beliefs about aging and ability.

Contrary to these beliefs, Zippia’s performance indicators have scientifically shown that “age does not correlate with ability, intellectual function, creativity, interest, or overall performance. What’s more, older workers do not cost significantly more than younger workers, and age-diverse teams are often more productive, improve organizational performance, and reduce employee turnover.”

Older adults looking to return to work might consider some of the following tips to strengthen skills and address ageism in the workplace:

  • To learn new technology skills, seek out free content from YouTube and other online sites, including direct contact with tech and software providers. Many free courses are available online, at community colleges, and extended learning programs as well.
  • Engage with employment services for job placement and resume support.
  • Role play interviewing ahead of time with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Don’t focus on what skills you might be lacking or underestimate the skill set you have acquired.
  • Showcase your wisdom and your work history.
  • If you suspect a hiring manager is concerned about your age, be proactive and indicate the software you have worked with.
  • If a hiring manager has concerns that you are overqualified and may leave for a better job, indicate the position is not a stepping stone, and is ideal for what you are looking for at this point in your life.

Here are a few of the many resources offering support for older job seekers, available both online and locally:

  • The National Council on Aging (NCOA) offers JobSource, which helps older adults find employment by helping users to define their skills and interests through free online courses to develop skills and earn free job certifications. The site provides resources and tips for the job search, successful resume and cover letter writing, and interview preparation to help older adults land the right job.
  • Hundreds of employers are advertising jobs on AARP’s website.
  • The MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center provides employment and training services at no charge to job seekers and employers in Franklin County, Hampshire County, and the North Quabbin area.

For more information about employment resources and opportunities, please call LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, and ask to speak with a Resource Consultant, or send us an email at info@lifepathma.org.

Barbara Bodzin
Barbara Bodzin, Former LifePath Executive Director
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