More Seniors Working After Moving to Retirement CommunitiesMore Seniors are Working even after Moving to Retirement Communities

A recent New York Times article about Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson’s newest book mentioned in passing that the Pulitzer Prize-winning 86-year old scientist and his wife have lived in assisted living for 14 years, and he’s still writing biology and biodiversity books. These days, it’s not just eminent scientists who work well past traditional retirement age, even if they’ve already moved into a retirement community. A USA Today feature on working retirees featured a couple living in a Florida retirement community even though they both have active careers; she’s a nurse, he’s a financial advisor.

No matter where they live—at home or in a senior community—more people over 65 are staying in the workforce or returning to it for a variety of reasons. By 2022, more than 31% of American adults between the ages of 65 and 74 will be working, according to a 2014 projection by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an increase from 20% in 2002.

Staying active and connected

In Wilson’s case, he has a lifetime’s worth of scientific observations and analysis to share with the world—capstones on a long and distinguished career. The Florida couple mentioned by USA Today simply likes their work. Avoiding boredom, feeling useful, enjoying regular social interaction, maintaining health insurance, and learning new things were among the top 10 reasons cited by seniors surveyed in 2008 and cited by US News & World Report.

Rebuilding nest eggs and paying the bills

For many older adults, working past retirement helps to rebuild nest eggs that were hit hard by the 2008 recession—increasing retirement savings was the most common reason given in the survey. For others, working helps meet immediate needs, especially because there was no cost-of-living adjustment in Social Security benefits for 2016. The #3 reason working seniors gave for continuing to work was “income from other sources is not enough.”

Finding the right job

Some seniors carry on with careers they worked hard to establish earlier in life, while others make a switch to something more fulfilling, more flexible in scheduling, or less hard on the body. White-collar jobs are easier for most seniors because they’re not as physically intense as many trades. The flipside of working in a desk-bound job is the need to keep up with the latest technology and best practices.

That’s where specialized senior job training programs come in. Some, like the federal Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), help low-income seniors who are not currently working to prepare for jobs in places like senior care and child care centers, libraries and schools. The program has training centers in cities and counties nationwide.

There are other programs that offer older workers job-hunting and networking skills training for, job banks and fairs, and news updates. For example, seniors interested in government jobs can get leads from the National Older Worker Career Center, which helps connect experienced workers with jobs in the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

If you’re interested in returning to work or switching careers, find out what’s available in your area. Your local Area Agency on Aging, community senior center, or even your retirement community may have resources you can use to keep working or start up again.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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