Can’t imagine retiring? You wouldn’t be the only one.
The number of workers 65 and older tripled in the last 30 years, and workers 75 and older almost quadrupled during the same time, from 461,000 in 1988 to 1.8 million in 2018, according to newly released Bureau of Labor Statistics data. This graying if the workforce is happening while participation rates for younger workers has declined or flattened between 1988 and 2018.
Of course, there were and are more younger workers than those who are 65 and above, which likely contributed to the exponential growth rate. But the data show Americans that it is possible to work in your older age. Some are choosing to do so because they don’t like the idea of retiring, while others may be working for financial stability.
Here are a few more statistics from the BLS regarding older workers:
- The number of older full-time workers grew 2.5 times faster than the number of those working part time in the last 20 years.
- One in five older workers had less than a high school diploma in 1998. In 2018, there were fewer than one in 10 workers with less than a high school education. The percentage of older workers with a college degree from 26% in 1998 to 42% in 2018.
- Older full-time workers made 77% of median earnings for all workers in 1998. Twenty years later, they earned 7% more than the median for all workers.
Staying in the workforce during the typical retirement years can be difficult. Not all companies and industries welcome older workers. Three in five workers 45 and over have experienced age discrimination at work, according to AARP The Magazine. They’ve heard negative comments about their age from colleagues or suspected they were overlooked for a promotion. Misconceptions about older workers include counting down to retirement, slowing down or a disinterest in learning new skills.
Others who were in their 50s and 60s say they were never even given a chance during the hiring process because of their age, made evident by certain questions on their applications (like asking what year they graduated high school) and questions during the interview process, such as “would it be hard to work for a boss younger than you?” and “where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Age discrimination can be difficult to prove, especially when hiring, but some companies were found to have targeted their jobs postings and ads to certain demographics, excluding potential older workers, according to a ProPublica and New York Times investigation.
Not all workers are in an environment that suits them. An Urban Institute and ProPublica report said more than half of older workers in the U.S. are pushed out before they choose to retire, and the other half retired because of the job, or because they were fired or laid off. Early retirement, especially when unwanted, could have detrimental effects on a person, including depression and anxiety and even deteriorating physical health because of a lack of drive or purpose.
But the trend of older employees in the workforce shows they aren’t quick to let go of their jobs. And companies are beginning to shift the way they work with and hire older workers. U.K.-based utilities company National Grid, for example says it hires workers with more than 20 years of experience from their competitors, and has programs in place to move workers around when they may want to continue working in a less physical manner (such as no longer climbing electricity poles, and instead becoming an instructor to newer employees).