The Changing Landscape of Work in Later Life

There is no question Boomers are re-writing the script that defines retirement. They no longer fancy a life of uninterrupted leisure, but rather look for opportunities to develop and the right mix of productive activities. One important component of that mix is work. According to a 2014 survey of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 27% of Boomers over the age of 65 participate in the workforce and this number is expected to grow to 32% by 2022. Statistics Canada and the rest of the G8 countries show similar numbers.

Why are Boomers working in such large numbers?

As more information emerges, we are gaining a clearer understanding of the reason Boomers work beyond age 65. Money, it seems, is not a primary reason. A recent Merrill Lynch found that Boomers work:

  • To stay mentally and physically active
  • For social connections
  • To maintain a sense of identity/self-worth
  • For take on new challenges
  • For the money and benefits

What type of work are Boomers doing?

Starting a business is high on the list for Boomers who plan to continue working beyond age 65.  Four out of ten want to start their own business. Another 40% want to work part-time and the rest plan to work a full work week, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. You can find Boomers in politics, in media and across a wide spectrum of in businesses; whether they are working for themselves or for others. A number of movie stars are also working well beyond the traditional age where they were considered “over the hill”.  Betty White, a young 94 year old, and Morgan Freeman, 79, are in demand more than ever. You will also find many Boomers pursuing new fields of studies.

Retirement is now a dynamic and fluid process

Boomers no longer relate to the traditional view of working 40 years, getting a gold watch and fading into the sunset to play bingo and for lawn bowling. While they won’t miss the deadlines, heavy workloads and commutes when they do retire, they will miss the social connections and intellectual stimulation that work provides. More than anything, Boomers want to stay relevant, make use of their talents and mentor the younger generations of workers. It’s great to see companies develop age-friendly workplaces to accommodate workers across 4 or 5 generations. That’s a positive sign for Boomers who want to continue working beyond traditional retirement – whatever “traditional” means anymore. The day is fast approaching when we will no longer ask: When are you retiring? Instead, we will ask:  What kind of work is keeping you busy these days?