New Old Age: The Graying Work Force


My 73-year-old father is retired, sort of. He works as a greeter in a grocery store in Calgary, Alberta, juggling shifts at work with caring for my young niece, who stays with my parents after school until my sister finishes work. You’ve likely seen someone like him in action — an elderly man or woman who says hello when you walk in, steers you to the right aisle and wishes you good day on your way out.

My dad, who puts in about 20 hours a week, stands on his feet for hours and sometimes works late shifts until midnight. Every now and then, he deals with shoplifters trying to sneak past his post. And yet he says this is the best job he’s ever had.

Until recently, working after retirement sounded like an oxymoron. Aren’t those years supposed to be devoted to volunteering, traveling and visiting grandchildren? But a recent report by the Families and Work Institute and Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging and Work found that a growing number of people continue to work for pay following their official “retirements.” And while they may be motivated by money, many like my father are finding their late-life jobs unexpectedly fulfilling.

Older workers “expect they have to, and they want to, extend their labor force participation,” said Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director of the center and the study’s co-author. In fact, 75 percent of the participants over age 50 in the center’s study said they expect to have jobs after they “retire.” Already, roughly a quarter of older workers switch occupations after age 50, according to Richard Johnson, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

The federal Department of Labor estimates that between 2006 and 2016, the number of workers over age 55 will rise 36.5 percent. That increase will create the grayest labor force since the government began tracking this data, Mr. Johnson said.

Gray or not, my father strongly believes working keeps you healthy. “Any day I work, I feel good,” he said. He also believes the routine helps him sleep better.

Read more at New York Times NEW OLD AGE blog!