Why Older Workers Remain in the Workforce

The following article appeared in the September/October, 2009 Elder Update, a publication of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

Almost 80 percent of baby boomers intend to keep working beyond age 65, according to 2005 survey by Merrill Lynch. About one in four of these boomers said they planned to keep working because they needed their job for financial reasons. The majority of baby boomers cited other reasons to continue working, such as avoiding boredom, giving back to the community or paying for leisure pursuits. Whatever their motivation for working, Florida’s 1.4 million experienced, dependable older workers make it clear that seniors are vital to the state’s workforce. For Jeanne, a Leon County resident, continuing to work meant more than just a paycheck. At age 80, Jeanne had cared for her husband in their New Jersey home. But six years after her husband lost his battle with cancer, Jeanne’s emotional and financial status was deteriorating quickly. She decided to return to Tallahassee to be closer to her family. With limited job prospects, Jeanne turned for help to the Department of Elder Affairs’ Senior Community Service Employment Program. The Department?s senior employment program places unemployed low-income Floridians who are at least age 55 in part-time community service positions. Since program participants have few employment prospects on their own, the senior employment program helps them find permanent career placement.

Although Jeanne completed her college courses at age 19, she hadn’t worked in a professional office environment since the early 1990’s. She had the desire to return to work, but needed to update her skills before diving back into the workforce. As soon as Jeanne entered the Department’s senior employment program, she was connected to a local workforce solutions organization called Experience Works. The staff at Experience Works set up several training opportunities, including a computer class at Jeanne’s local senior center. Before long, Jeanne was placed with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, located within the Florida Department of Education. She now believes her services are very valuable and takes pleasure in working and helping others. Jeanne is also proud of the computer skills she gained through the senior employment program. In addition to her outstanding job skills, she arrives at work every day 30 minutes early to fill in where needed. Her supervisor has acknowledged Jeanne’s hard work and dedication. “Her competence, dependability and smiling face makes her a great employee,” beamed Jeanne’s supervisor. Jeanne has also been recognized with three awards for her outstanding work and for going above and beyond the call of duty. The mental stimulation Jeanne experiences every day from going to work keeps her on her toes and always alert. She wouldn’t have it any other way. According to Jeanne, “I would just deteriorate if I stayed home seven days a week. I look forward to eating dinner with my kids on Sunday and preparing for my work week.” The number of older workers opting to stay on the job, rather than retire,is growing rapidly. For some, it’s a matter of choice. For others, like Jeanne, continuing in the workforce is a matter of surviving today’s difficult economic climate.

For more information about the Department of Elder Affairs’ Senior Community Service Employment Program, call 850-414-2000.