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Remember when the magic number for retirement was 65? It may come as a surprise that almost 11 million people over the age of 65 in America are still working, according to the Census Bureau of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) do not seem in any hurry to retire. Labor force participation rate is expected to increase fastest for the oldest segments of the population — most notably, people aged 65 to 74 and 75 and older — through 2024. Why are so many older people not retiring, and exactly how might that affect the American workforce? The answers to these and other questions about the older workforce show a sea change in the American labor market.

First, the reasons: Way up on the list of reasons for this cultural phenomenon is health. With advances in medical science and greater attention being paid to fitness and self-care, many older people have no reason to have to retire. Significantly, many say they like what they are doing, they need or appreciate the income, and they just want to keep going. Best evidence of the prolonged fitness of the American worker? The BLS further reported that from 2014 to 2024, the number of workers 75 and older would grow by 86 percent. So far, that number appears to be holding up to the projection.

At the same time, a growing number older workers find themselves in the sandwich generation, supporting both their aging parents and their adult children and grandchildren. For these workers, maintaining employment is a necessity.

While it is great news that more older Americans are able to work, finding a job is often tough for mature workers. Ageism is a live and well in the job market, and many (most?) of the decision makers are younger people. Those who do find jobs at an advanced age often report a lack of inclusivity in the workplace, and some say they are often marginalized. Widespread generation gaps in the American workplace result in some of the predictable situations: Younger bosses vs older workers; older workers frustrated that their experience is not always appreciated or respected in the way they feel it should be; disparate working styles among different age groups. Still, for all the reasons mentioned above, the trend of older workers staying in the game seems to be here to stay.

Older workers are showing real ingenuity in countering some of the challenges they face in the workforce. For the past 20 years, more Americans 50 and older have started their own businesses than ever before. The trend has to do with people extending their chosen careers by using their skills working for themselves, rather than for others. Many of those who report ageism in the workplace, or other dissatisfaction with the corporate world, have become entrepreneurs at a time in life when many others are retiring. Some are even using their transferrable skills and lifetime of experience to become consultants to the types of businesses they know best.

As for how all of this is affecting the workforce, some millennials say older workers staying employed is making it harder for them to either renter the workforce or earn promotions. That has resulted in many younger people joining the sharing economy to make their living, or working freelance. At the same time, older workers are participating in the sharing economy, as well. Some engage in ride sharing, while others manage short term rentals.

We are living longer, staying healthier and thriving. For many, work is contributing to those positive life changes.

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