How retirement is being reinvented worldwide
People are working longer – out of necessity and choice – as the world undergoes one of the biggest demographic shifts in history.
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Call it a bargain between generations, and perhaps a taste of family lifestyles to come. It's possible, for example, that many US boomers will also end up nesting with their children during retirement while continuing to work and contributing to household finances.Skip to next paragraph
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One 2008 survey in America, asking people over 50 why they are working, found a wide range of reasons. Financial goals like bolstering retirement income and maintaining health insurance (until Medicare kicks in) were high on the list, according to the report by the Families and Work Institute. But many people also pointed to being bored if they don't work (31 percent of respondents), wanting to feel useful (18 percent), or pursuing a dream (6 percent).
Others simply want to interact with other people or learn new things. Donna Gainey, 64, a town clerk in Bayou La Batre, Ala., appreciates the income but also the camaraderie that her employment brings. She's helped 20-somethings learn to navigate spreadsheets, and has enjoyed taking a cue from them when it comes to social networking, such as how to use Facebook.
In some cases, older workers are creating their own workplace culture by launching new businesses. In fact, according to research by the Kauffman Foundation, in recent years America's highest rate of entrepreneurial activity has occurred among people age 55 to 64, not among younger age groups.
Employers, too, are starting to adapt to the era of the graying workforce. Although age discrimination remains a problem in corporate America, a rising number of companies have specific policies designed to attract older workers (with things like flexible scheduling) and to make the most of their potential (through tailored training).
The retail pharmacy chain CVS cultivates senior workers by offering a "snowbird" program, enabling semiretired workers to split time between two work locations based on their seasonal migration.
Thirty years ago, amid an influx of women in the workforce, people wondered if men could adapt to the idea of working for a female boss. Now, says former AARP chief Mr. Novelli, workplaces are having to cope with older workers being managed by younger ones. "Both sides have to deal with that," he says.
In the end, demographic forces make it all but inevitable that people will be working later in life. Even truck driver Wiley figures he may have to do something other than hitting the recliner when he reaches age 62 in four years.
"Maybe I'd get another job," he says, filling up his rig at a truck stop in Theodore, Ala. "Well, driving trucks, of course. But local. Local."