That trend is playing out in Pittsburgh. Once the purview of teens and younger workers, today more and more fast food counters and grocery store checkouts are being staffed by seniors. There are a number of factors contributing to why seniors in greater numbers are shunning retirement. The Great Recession is one. Many took hits to their nest eggs when the economy nose-dived, and since we are living longer than ever, many fear they will not have enough money to last until the end of their lives. In addition, lower interest rates have wreaked havoc for those who projected greater returns on their investment income.
Another factor is that people are living longer and want to make the most of the latter portion of their lives. According to the Social Security Administration, a male retiring in 1940 at the age of 65 could expect to live 12.7 more years after ceasing working. By 1990, that number had jumped to 15.3 more years after 65. For a woman retiring at 65 in 1940, she could expect to live 14.7 more years,and by 1990, that figured increased to 19.6 years. But the real key is that only 53 percent of males in 1940 made it to the retirement age of 65, and only 60 percent of women survived until that age. Today, 72 percent of males live to see retirement, and nearly 84 percent of women do as well. There are many more living to enjoy their senior years, and they’re not ready to pack up their bats and call it a game when they are still active and have a wealth of experience that younger workers lack.
Advancements in health care have boosted the quality of those years, making it possible for people to continue to work and have lead to a rise of the average retirement age. In 1993, the average retirement age was 57. By 2003, it had risen to 59. A 2014 Gallup report showed that it had increased to 62, and of those still in the workforce, they say they expect to retire at age 66.
While economic issues often play a role for retirees who choose to continue to postpone retirement, other reasons factor in as well. People desire having a purpose in life and need to feel as if they are contributing to society. Many strive for years to reach the pinnacle of their careers and are reluctant to abandon something they have devoted their career life to achieving now that they’ve reached the summit. Someone once said that when you retire, there is nothing to look forward to, because the weeks run together and there is no weekend to anticipate. Some continue to work for that structure in their life.
For Pittsburgh seniors who wish to continue to work, the future looks bright. In 2014, a report by CareerBuilder/EMSI stated that Pittsburgh is No. 1 in the nation with nearly 18 percent of the area’s workforce being 50 years or older. The study attributes so many older workers still being on the job to our region still having an active manufacturing sector. Forbes magazine ranks Pittsburgh as No. 23 in the country on their 2013 Best Places for a Working Retirement list.
So where are seniors working in the Pittsburgh area? Many professional workers continue in their chosen field as consultants, while still others change careers completely. Often seniors seek part-time positions, casting off highly-responsible positions for ones that entail fewer duties and where they can dictate their own hours. Many seek to fulfill lifelong dreams and work in an area that satisfies a hobby or vocation. For instance, those seniors who had dreams of the footlights seek work as ushers at theaters, while sports enthusiasts work as ushers at PNC Park for the Pirates. In fact, there are four retired men in my neighborhood who usher for the Pirates and can often be seen in their work uniforms car pooling to the games. The work supplements their retirement income, provides camaraderie, and allows them to attend Pirates games.
Besides fast food establishments and grocery stores, seniors can be found working in day cares, as school bus drivers, tax preparers, medical assistants, etc. Because seniors are such good employees, expect to see more in the workforce. A study by the National Council on Aging and McDonald’s Corporation said that 97 percent of employers surveyed reported that older workers are reliable and thorough. The study also characterized senior workers as generally having lower turnover rates, an interest in learning new things, low absentee rates, and fewer on-the-job accidents. Anyone who has ever had to stand in a checkout line watching while a younger worker struggled to make change can appreciate the math skills older workers who grew up without calculators possess.
For those seniors interested in working in the Pittsburgh area, finding available job openings is as easy as searching on the Internet. There are a plethora of sites devoted to senior employment opportunities. In addition, several social agencies such as STEP (Senior Training and Employment Program), part of Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, and Seniors in Community Service, a program of the Urban League of Pittsburgh, offer employment assistance.