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The population in America is ageing – and so is its workforce.  There are now more Americans aged 65 years and older than in almost two decades. Early retirement seems to be a thing of the past, as the seniors are predicted to be the fastest growing section through 2024 and reasons for this are suggested as long life, lack of retirement savings, high housing and health care costs. 

Jen Schramm, SHRM-SCP - who is senior strategic policy advisor for labor market issues at the AARP Public Policy Institute – said:

“Several factors influence how long people stay in the labor force. Increasing longevity means that people need to finance a longer period of retirement. Many people have not saved enough money for retirement and are facing increased costs of living—particularly burdensome are housing costs and medical expenses.”

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was analyzed to understand which jobs older Americans were taking and how the workforce had changed since 2006.  According to a December 2017 study by SeniorLiving.org, it was found that the number of employed senior Americans had risen by 35 percent between 2011 and 2016.

The study also found that management, sales and office support were the top three occupations for the over 65s - having remained relatively the same since 2011, but with the numbers of employees having increased.  The top field for older Americans is management - employing 1.4 million seniors in 2016.

Jen Schramm said:

"Workers with higher levels of education often have more opportunities to remain in the workforce at older ages. Workers in occupations and with skills that are in high demand may have the opportunity to work longer if employers provide incentives to remain in the workforce."

The second highest number of older Americans was employed in the Sales industry - about 1.2 million.  Sales consists of cashiers; counter and rental clerks; advertising positions; insurances and financial services; travel and real estate – among others.

Production occupations employed the smallest number of older Americans and this could be due to the fact that over time, certain skills become harder to maintain due to normal ageing effects.  This limits the number of jobs an older person can perform.  However, production occupations still showed a 36 percent increase in the employment of seniors from 2011 – 2015.

Americans still see retirement as their goal but are not all in a hurry to do take it up. 

The study points to the fact that the percentage of older American women who stay at work is lower than the percentage of older American men – but the women plan to work longer than the men, according to Melody Kasulis, project manager for SeniorLiving.org.  She remarks:

“I'd speculate and say that it could be for multiple reasons like better health, length of life, desire to stay busy after their children have left the household.  The cost of living has a lot to do with the extra years people in the retirement age group are trying to put in."

Jen Schramm said:

 "AARP research has found that among people ages 65 to 74 who are currently working or looking for work, 35 percent cite the need for money as the most important factor in their decision to work. Finances are therefore likely a key factor for many women working later in life. Approximately 19 percent of people ages 65 to 74 say that the most important factor in their decision to work is that they enjoy working."