Over 70 and Back to Work?

Posted Monday, February 4th, 2013| Comments (4) rule
The following blog is reposted with permission from Squared Away: Financial Behavior: Work, Save, Retire. Sponsored by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Squared Away is a blog is for individuals, as well as practitioners in the field of financial literacy, including financial advisers, educators, employers, government and foundation officials, and researchers.
Kimberly Blanton
Boston College Center for Retirement Research
Phone: 617 552 6896
Email: kimberly.blanton@bc.edu

For Vita Needle Company’s elderly employees, work is the essence of the fulfillment they feel in their lives.

Howard Ring, a 78-year-old engineer – like many of his coworkers – initially went back to work after retiring, because he needed more money. And Vita Needle would hire him.

“What I found there was more than just a job,” he says. In the video below, Ring and his elderly coworkers talked about what they derive from work during an October panel discussion at the Newton (Mass.) Free Library.

Is Vita Needle a window into the future? Will growing ranks of retired but still-vigorous boomers return to work after a couple of years, when they grow bored with golf or bridge?

Returning to work – or remaining employed – has proved extremely difficult in the wake of the 2008-2009 stock and housing market collapses. More late-career workers lost their jobs in the Great Recession than in previous downturns, and their jobless spells lasted longer, according to a forthcoming study by the Center for Retirement Research, which funds this blog. Now that the economy is growing, it isn’t generating enough jobs to employ the elderly who do want to work, the study found.

Vita Needle’s heavy reliance on older employees is “unique,” said Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director of the Sloan Center on Aging & Work, which is also at Boston College.

Older workers make excellent employees, she said – they demonstrate a strong work ethic and great attention to detail, whether safety concerns or a customer’s precise product specifications. But a future of workplaces bustling with aging boomers “is not coming unless there is more labor market demand,” she said.

Vita Needle employees like Rosa Finnegan – age 100 – are such an anomaly they have become virtual celebrities. They were featured on a German documentary and public television and studied by Olin College professor Caitrin Lynch in her book, “Retirement on the Line: Age, Work, and Value in an American Factory.”

But Squared Away can’t help wondering whether baby boomers, who have put their stamp on so many other aspects of American life, may also redefine the meaning of retirement.

4 responses to “Over 70 and Back to Work?”

  1. Ellen Frank-Miller says:

    This an interesting phenomenon, particularly for retired engineer-types seeking fulfillment instead of golf. I think an even more urgent question is, how does the market handle the many lower-skilled older workers who cannot afford retirement and must take poor quality, low-wage jobs? While some of these workers may find fulfillment in employment, many more struggle to make ends meet – fulfillment may be an unattainable luxury.

  2. Donna says:

    If people are mentally sharp and want to continue working, I feel this is great. Why should older workers be forced out of the workforce when they are capable of making a substantiveand quality driven contribution to the business. Wisdom is something that can be a gift that you cannot pay enough money for in today’s workplace.

  3. We will see more people working in their later years, but not all older people. Baby Boomers have changed our expectations about how people live their lives and as they reach older age they are redefining that as well. It is no coincidence that we are moving away from a defined age for retirement, and that retirement is emerging for many Baby Boomers as a transition combining and balancing work and leisure rather than a fixed cessation of paid work. Increasing numbers of Baby Boomers will challenge society about what can be expected from older people and their capacity to contribute to work. But we need employers and workplaces to make a number of changes so that older people’s abilities are maximised and any limitations they may experience are minimised.

  4. Kirissa says:

    I find this to be great that some older adults still want to go to work and some find a sense of fulfillment while doing it. I think anyone no matter what age in life if they want to work and are capable of doing so, they should be encouraged and welcomed into the workplace.