Older Americans make up about 12.6 percent of the population. According to the Census Bureau, there were 37.9 million people 65 and older living in the U.S. in 2007. This year, the number of elderly is expected to reach 40 million.
As baby boomers age, the number of older Americans will skyrocket. In 2020, approximately 55 million people in the U.S. will be 65+. That number is projected to top 72 million by 2030.
Employment for Seniors
Many people look forward to retirement. However, more than 6.1 million older Americans continue to work. Traditionally, older workers have taken part-time jobs. But after 1995, the number of seniors in full-time employment rose. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 56 percent of working seniors were employed full-time in 2007 (compared to 44 percent in 1995).
There are many reasons why seniors continue working after retirement age. Some people do not have enough savings or retirement income to sustain a comfortable lifestyle or pay their bills. Others like to have extra income to splurge on vacations, grandchildren or personal luxuries.
For older people, work can be more than just a source of income. Sometimes older people miss the social interactions at work or like having a more predictable weekly schedule. Researchers report seniors who work or volunteer after retirement are less likely to be depressed and have better cognitive performance and life satisfaction compared to non-working peers.
Companies also benefit from employing seniors. Older workers often have valuable skills and more experience than young hires. In fact, a survey by the American Society for Training and Development found nearly half of all companies surveyed report having to provide job readiness training to new workers. In addition, many young hires lack communication skills, creativity and teamwork. Researchers report older workers also tend to be more motivated and committed to their jobs than younger workers.
Sesame Place® for Seniors
Sesame Place®, located in Langhorne, PA, is a theme park geared for families with young children. The park’s theme is based on the children’s television show, "Sesame Street."
The park currently employs about 1600 seasonal employees, many of whom are senior citizens. Greg Hartley, Human Resources Director for Sesame Place, says older employees love working at the park because it gives them something active to do during amusement park season. The senior workers also get a chance to interact with youngsters, many of whom are the same age as the employees’ grandchildren.
The park also hires a significant number of young employees. Hartley says the older employees act as mentors, helping the younger employees to be comfortable interacting with children and families. On the other hand, many of seniors learn how to relate better with the younger generation. In some cases, the youthful workers help older employees learn how to understand and interact with teenage grandchildren.
For general information on employment for seniors:
Center for Retirement Research, http://crr.bc.edu
National Older Worker Career Center, Inc., http://www.nowcc.org
Fraser, L., et al., “Older Workers,” Work, 2009, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 261-272.
Hao, Y., “Productive Activities and Psychological Well-being Among Older Adults,” Journal of Gerontology, Part B, March 2008, Vol. 63, No. 2, pp. S64-S72.
Hinterlong, J., “Productive Engagement Among Older Americans,” Journal of Aging and Social Policy, 2008, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 141-164.
Schwingel, A., et al., “Continued Work Employment and Volunteerism and Mental Well-Being of Older Adults,” Age and Aging, September 2009, Vol. 38, No. 5, pp. 531-537.
Toossi, Mitra, “Labor Force Projections to 2014,” Monthly Labor Review, November 2005, pp. 25-44