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Successful Aging: Work on understanding myths about new employment

Q I am 70 years old and have been retired for several years after working for a small business. I am seriously considering looking for a job but am worried that my age will be an obstacle. Is there anything working in my favor? Many thanks.

— E.S.

A Dear E.S.:

There is much going on that’s in your favor.

However, we know conventional wisdom suggests that age is a problem and in some industries that’s true. For example, in the tech industry, we are aware of the young age of employees. In 2014, the average age of employees at Facebook was 29; at Amazon and Google it was 30.

Ageism is not a new story. We know that age discrimination exists. According to an AARP survey of more than 1,500 older adults, about two-thirds say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the work place. This is a discrimination that is underreported and difficult to prove. Fortunately, there is another part to the story that is more encouraging. Older adults are doing better than expected.

The 55-and-older crowd is the only group that has had an increase in labor participation rates. Anne Tergesen addresses this in her article in the Wall Street Journal’s Encore section (Nov. 28, 2016)"

“Five Myths About Landing a Good Job in Later Life.”


1 I assume I am not going to find a good job: Compared to previous generations, baby boomers are securing jobs that pay better with higher status and working conditions. They are healthier than previous generations and can take advantage of an economy that’s moving from manufacturing to service industries. Such jobs require more cognitive than physical skills, which translates into more opportunities for older workers.

2 If I take time off, I won’t be able to re-enter the labor market: About 40 percent of retirees return to work within two years and many move into new professions. Reasons for returning to work are not necessarily out of economic necessity. Often it’s a matter of choice and valuing the nonmonetary benefits of work such as social contact, structure to a day, making a difference and just liking the job. A word of caution: Older job seekers need more time to find work: 36 weeks compared with 26 weeks for younger workers.

3 I am probably not going to be as productive: Most studies show little relationship between age and job performance. In jobs that require experience, older adults tend to have a competitive edge. And that experience often compensates for any physical and cognitive decline. Additionally, wisdom defined in the article as the “ability to resolve conflicts by seeing problems from multiple perspectives” is another older-adult asset.

4 I only will be able to find part time work: In the past 20 years, the number of people 65 and older who work full time has tripled. That translates into almost two-thirds of workers 65 plus working full time, an increase from 44 percent in 1995. Those who are working part time prefer that arrangement. Only about 5 percent indicate they would prefer full time work.


5 It’s too late to become an entrepreneur: According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, those ages 55 to 64 represent almost one-quarter of entrepreneurs who launched businesses in 2015, an increase of almost 10 percent compared to 1996. Those 20 to 34 years old also launched about one-quarter of new businesses. In this case, that’s a decrease from 34 percent in 1996. Baby boomers are considered to have an advantage because of their experience and having saved enough to support their ideas. Perhaps these are some reasons why older entrepreneurs have higher success rates compared to younger ones.

While this all is good news, we need to remember that 2.5 million older Americans want a job but don’t have one.

E.S., thank you for your good question. Consider throwing your hat in the ring. The application process may have changed since you last applied for a job. About 50 percent of large and medium companies are requesting online applications through an applicant tracking system. The internet has many good tips to complete the process. Good luck and enjoy!

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