It’s the latest thing in retirement: not retiring. More workers are planning to continue in the workforce past age 65, and some plan to never retire.
Nearly 60 percent of 50-plus workers plan to continue working past age 65, and 82 percent of workers age 60 and over have the same goal, according to a white paper published in June by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
Workers’ plans could represent a healthy trend in light of research suggesting that mental stimulation helps delay cognitive decline. But old workers will only be able to follow through on those plans if employers are in fact ramping up en masse to accommodate them in later life.
That is not the case, at least not yet. Just 4 percent of the employers responding to a 2014 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that they have a formal strategy for recruiting or retaining older workers. And research by JP Morgan found that while 67 percent of all current workers expect to retire after age 65, in reality, just 23 percent do.
Labor force participation by older workers is increasing, but “workers’ expectations may exceed today’s labor force realities,” said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica center.
The problem is particularly acute for women, since they tend to accumulate less in retirement savings and they have longer life expectancies. A new report from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., found that the average income of women over age 65 is just 55 percent of men in the same age bracket.
“Women face systemic barriers that hinder their ability to access a secure retirement, barriers that begin long before they reach the retirement age,” wrote Sen. Murray to her colleagues on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
That’s not to say that all employers have their head in the sand. In fact, one major industry, health care, often dominates lists of the best employers for older workers. (In addition, women make up about 80 percent of the health-care workforce.)
Ann Doshi, a nurse educator at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, is still going full steam at “65-plus,” as she puts it, or just shy of 66. Doshi has been working in operating rooms for 40 years, first as a scrub technician, then as an operating room nurse, and now as an educator for other operating room nurses.
“To be in this kind of position, they prefer someone with experience,” she said. “It’s one thing to use theory, and another to have the hands-on experience.” But Doshi thinks the same may not hold true in other professions. “I think you find that in many fields, when people reach certain ages, the mentality is ‘maybe we can get someone in here who is fresh,’ ” she said.
Baby boomers represent about 40 percent of the Atlantic Health workforce, said Lesley Meyer, corporate manager of human resources.
Carol Indri, 50, an operating room nurse at Morristown and one of Doshi’s trainees, also finds the hospital and its parent company, Atlantic Health, very open to workers in the AARP years. But she said she knows people who have not been nearly so lucky. She pointed to a friend of hers whose husband left her when she was in her early 40s, who has been “barely able to keep a job” and is now “on the welfare side of life.”
Employers may soon be forced to make more provisions for older workers. People over age 65 accounted for 12.6 percent of the U.S. population in 1990, but their share is expected to increase to 16.8 percent by 2020 and 20.9 percent by 2050, according to Census Bureau calculations.
For now, though, older workers would do well to have a plan B for their so-called golden years.