The U.S. Census calculates that on average, roughly 10,000 Americans reach retirement age (65) each day. However, as most of us in the senior living business know, the vast majority of these people are not hanging up their hats and resolving themselves to sedentary lifestyles. They are still healthy and active, and they are finding more and more ways to keep themselves busy and happy as they continue to redefine aging.
First of all, many of these people termed “retirement age” are staying on in the workplace. We live in an age of Rupert Murdochs and J.W. Marriotts, who are 82 and 81 years old, respectively, and still working. But it’s not all Fortune 500 CEOs; many people are staying on with large and small companies alike. To give some perspective, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1985 the percentage of those 65 and older in the workplace was 10.8 percent; the percentage of those 65-plus in 2012: 18.5 percent.
Now one might think that an eight percent increase over 30 years is not remarkable, but consider again the first line of this article. Then remember that this massive influx of newcomers to the “retirement age” arena has only just begun, as the first baby boomers just began to hit age 65 in 2011.
Increasingly, those who don’t or can’t stay on with the companies they are with when “retirement age” hits are finding job opportunities elsewhere. Many are parlaying the experience from previous occupations to new ones, such as business mediators and financial and tax advisors, as well as a variety of other consulting/advisory positions.
Some find new opportunities working part-time. In fact, one of the fastest-growing areas of part-time work is in the senior care industry itself. The problem with part-time work is that the availability of these jobs is dwindling as more and more Americans find themselves vying for the same positions (which more often than not go to younger people).
This brings us to another trend in the new age of retirement: going back to school. Today’s jobs often require knowledge and skills that simply weren’t around ten years ago – let alone 30 or 40 years ago. Many working-class seniors are returning to or heading off for the first time to college to increase their knowledge and subsequently, their edge in the job market. And now more than ever, colleges and universities are catering to the senior market, offering discounted courses, credit for work experience, and a slew of online courses geared toward seniors.
These emerging trends are important, because the things happening right now are just a prelude of things to come. The U.S. Census predicts that in roughly 15 years, those over age 65 will constitute nearly a fifth of the population.
We are seeing a future in which people may have three or four careers over the course of a lifetime, remain in the workforce until their nineties and continue to better their education well into what would have been considered their “twilight years” a decade ago. These trends can’t be ignored – business models and marketing and advertising strategies will have to change. There are so many facets of society that will have to reevaluate the ways in which they treat older adults that it can be a bit staggering. We must remember the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and keep one eye on the future and the other on the present.