Later Retirement and Worker Enjoyment

Later Retirement and Worker Enjoyment

The Social Security program was first enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1935 to support older adults and retirees who had been disadvantaged by the Great Depression and were struggling with unemployment and poverty.  

At the time, the average life expectancy for an American male was 58 years of age, but as modern medicine has advanced, life expectancy has increased, and so has the retirement age. Most people now see age 65 as the ideal age for retirement, though this age is slowly rising as research suggests that older adults are staying and joining the workforce well past the age of 65.  

The most recent statistics on labor force participation rates come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their 2016 findings reported that 35.2% of the workforce was made up of adults aged 65 and older, with a projection to be at 41% by 2026. Compared to 1996 when only 22% of the workforce was made up of adults aged 65 and older, the participation of older adults in the workforce only continues to grow.  

This increase has occurred for several reasons: 

  1. Social Security rules have changed.
      To encourage people to work longer, Social Security now offers a reduced tax penalty for working while receiving benefits. The Social Security Administration has also increased the age in which you can receive full benefits and will make larger payments for those who delay claiming benefits under older age.
  2. Levels of education continue to increase.
      More people are receiving bachelor’s degrees and post-graduate degrees than ever before. There is a growing correlation between years of education and an extended working life.
  3. The number of women working continues to grow.
      More women are joining the workforce and working for longer periods of time, which may keep many other individuals in the workforce longer as couples often want to retire together
  4. Women born in the baby boom generation had less time out of the labor force. 
      This leads to more work experience and higher earnings for some women. Other factors, such as household finances, can lead to older women working longer.

As the number of older adults in the workforce rises, it is important to understand the motives, attitudes, and environments of these individuals to create inclusive work environments for people of all ages. A 2018 study focused on the attitudes of older adults in the workplace to understand their levels of work enjoyment. The study sampled 5,702 individuals over the age of 50 who were still members of the workforce. Individuals were asked questions relating to their level of work enjoyment, job resources available, job demands, job characteristics, and demographics to discover more on how older adults experience the workplace. It found that a large majority of older individuals enjoyed working, though factors such as household income, education, and wages did not really play a role in their level of enjoyment.  

Enjoyment correlated with a flexible work environment, contributing to the longevity of participants’ working lives. Having options to work in a less demanding position, or as a part-time employee, as well as having a flexible schedule or the ability to work from home, played a large role in perceived work enjoyment.  

The last factor that affected older individuals’ work enjoyment was age-based discrimination in the workplace. Older adult workers who perceived pressure to retire from coworkers or were passed up on a promotion by a younger worker, experienced a lower level of worker enjoyment and a greater desire for retirement.  

Aside from the Social Security benefits and worker enjoyment that you can receive from later retirement, studies have shown that adults who work later into their lives had a decreased mortality risk over an 18-year period and were three times more likely to report being in good health than those who retired earlier.  

Even if a later retirement does not sound ideal to you, keeping the mind and body active beyond retirement is extremely important for embracing a healthy lifestyle.  

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Grace Weintrob is a junior majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Stage, Sports, and Film Production at CSU. She is currently working as the digital media intern for the Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging.