Retiree Seeking Part Time Job
BY CAROL LARSON
“You want fries with that?”
The woman asking me that question had grey hair tucked under her paper cap. Part-time work isn’t just for kids anymore. Surveys estimate between 60 and 80 percent of retirees are looking for part-time work either because we need or want to continue working.
The good news is most of us aren’t looking to make a living wage. We’re looking for a supplemental income to add to our Social Security checks or pension stipends, or to keep from emptying IRAs that now have to last the 20 to 30 more years the average 60-year-old is expected to live.
That means retirement no longer signifies a life of leisure, a concept most of society has yet to grasp. In Wisconsin (where I live), for example, most of the 58,000 residents retiring this year will find that retirement means a change in the type of work, or the amount of work a person does.
The bad news is that seniors aren’t having much luck finding work. In the U.S., part-time jobs are mainly entry-level jobs, repetitive, no-thinking-required, how-long-can-you-stand-on-your-feet jobs. Kids’ jobs. That’s why you see so many grey-haired burger flippers these days.
The proposed political answer to this dearth of senior-appropriate jobs is to raise the official retirement to age 70. BAD IDEA. I had to retire early due to a medical issue that was slowly sapping my endurance and energy. Forcing people to stay in jobs they either can’t or don’t want to do anymore is not the answer.
A small handful of employers have begun working with older workers, allowing them to change jobs within the organization. Others have created what’s called “bridge jobs,” which allow retiring employees to transition out of their positions, slowly lessening their hours or responsibilities while prepping their younger colleagues to take over their duties.
This also slows the brain drain of valuable experience from the workplace. Every week I hear about more people asked back by their former employers to take on a special project, fill in, or teach the “new kids” how things are done.
But if a senior is not known to an employer, the probability of being hired drops to near zero. Ageism, especially in our youth-worshiping society, still places retirees in the same category as the frail elderly, despite the majority of healthy and active 60, 70 and 80 year-olds who defy the stereotype.
Sorry, today’s retirees can’t wait for society to wise up. We need jobs now. So many are taking matters into their own hands. Nearly 25% of all new retirees are starting their own businesses, be that as small as a dog-walking service or someone like Madison’s iconic pitchman, Crazy TV Lenny, who retired and then started a new business selling electric bikes, mostly to other active seniors.
The irony is that with more age-appropriate jobs out there, more than retirees would benefit. Seniors with satisfying jobs are happier and healthier (the two go together) and less dependent on medical services. We would thereby be less of a drain on the government, and people could stop shrieking about how “elderly” baby boomers are going to bankrupt the system.
A large and growing demographic would have extra spending cash, becoming an economic boon to our sagging economy. This army of baby boomers would be putting their considerable know-how back to work. There are lots of problems out there that need solving, and boomers are an altruistic generation, still trying to make the world a better place. And we could, too, given the chance.
Finding work for retirees would also address another problem; the trumped up issue of older workers allegedly stealing jobs from younger workers.
Trust me, most baby boomers would rather leave to kids the job of asking, “You want fries with that?”
The Reporters Inc. is a proud member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a consortium of more than 300 nonprofit newsrooms dedicated to serving the public interest. Our articles are syndicated and shared with hundreds of other media organizations, online magazines, top blogs, etc. Please send news, feature and investigative story tips and ideas to .
Looking for one of our previous articles, investigations, commentaries, essays or book excerpts? Search our archives by typing key words into our SEARCH bar above, or at the top left corner of our site!