Successful Aging: In your 80s and still working? You aren’t alone
Q. I am an 80-year-old financial consultant and continue to work. Fortunately, my clients are pleased with my services. I am curious, are there many others in their 80s who continue with their profession or am I an exception? R.F.
You are not alone. Although workers 80 and older are a small portion of the overall U.S. labor force, their numbers are growing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 650,000 Americans over 80 were working this past year. That is 18 percent more than the previous decade. Half of those 650,000 Americans worked full-time hours. Their professions typically included professional, managerial and financial positions with fewer in service jobs. The fewest in this age category were working in farming, fishing and forestry. Since these occupations typically require a certain level of physical strength and stamina which often declines in later life, fewer in this age category is understandable. Others in their 80s may be cashiers, salespeople or work in a grocery store to relieve their boredom or for extra or even needed income.
Others may be motivated by inflation, stock market volatility or just want to be part of the action. An 85-year-old attorney who specializes in the divorces of the rich and famous is quoted in a June 25, 2023, Wall Street article saying he “loves the challenge of preventing exes from hating each other or being hated by their children.” He also loves traveling to conferences, socializing in bars and receiving recognition. He noted, “…out of sight, out of mind” so being present is important.
Yet others may work in their later years because they are bored with golf or pickleball or their mate wants them out of the house. They also may also be motivated by wanting a sense of purpose and accomplishment as well as opportunities for recognition
Here are just a few examples of notables in their ninth decade who love their profession. Actor Harrison Ford, aged 80, stars in the newly released movie “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and a pair of streaming series, “Shrinking” and “1923.” Primatologist Jane Goodall, aged 89, continues to protect chimpanzees. Singer, songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson is on tour at 83. President Biden is seeking re-election at 80. Actor, comedian and filmmaker Mel Brooks, 97, recently wrote and produced the Hulu miniseries, “History of the World, Part II.” Add to that list of working actors 88-year-old Judi Dench and 85-year-old Jane Fonda. Then there is the investor, businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffett, aged 92, who continues to serve as chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
There are plenty of people who are not well-known who continue to work in their 80s. Although he retired at age 90, an optometrist reflected on his recent work at Cosco. What he enjoyed most was working with younger people. He found them a relief and said, “only associating with people my age means you talk about their aches and pains.” He also loved the feeling of being productive.
A consultant continues to work at age 90 as an executive coach, recruiter and editor. In his role as a recruiter, he finds it particularly gratifying to help others overcome obstacles in finding the right position. He considers the process a pleasure and fun. A recent phone call from a client told him, “The advice you gave me 20 years ago changed my life.” That “making a difference “is what makes this consultant’s work so meaningful. He added that the money also helps.
Some companies are looking for ways to keep their older workers from retiring or moving to another employer. A new benefit has been developed to do just that. It’s called Grandternity Leave. Although rare, it is a special paid time for new grandparents that can last from a day to a couple of weeks. Cisco, the tech company, consulting firm Mercier and HireVue, a hiring platform are offering it, according to the Wall Street Journal piece.
Working into one’s 80s may become more common as the notion of a 100-year life becomes a reality. Work among other things will be redefined. Our hope is that we all will be sufficiently healthy to fulfill our work-related aspirations and needs during what may be considered by many as our bonus years.
Indeed R.F., you are not alone as more people in their ninth decade will come along to join you. And thank you for your good question.
As a reminder to our dear readers – kindness is free; so, feel free to spread it around generously.
Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulAgingCommunity