Working Past Retirement

By: Joe Hamilton
By: Joe Hamilton

Older Americans once thought that retiring was just another step they took on life's evolving ladder. They figured that Social Security would help provide the financial rung they needed to last the rest of their life

In a 23 News Report, we look on how a generation is going back to work.

With the lagging economy eating away at their life savings, and with so much time leading to boredom, seniors are again climbing on the corporate ladder. Working after retirement just to survive.

Former retirees like 79-year-old Dorthy Bennett never thought she would have to work again. She thought after 30 years of employment she would be financially set for life.

"I thought when I worked all those years at Amrock I would make more than $47.30 a month, that's not all that much," said Bennett.

Bennett is among a growing trend of Americans 65 an older that are continuing to work. Seventy-year-old Warren Weerda has been a machinist for more than 50 years and has no plans to stop.

"I do like the money, and this way I don't have to argue with my wife," said Weerda.

A labor dept study shows that 4.3 million seniors will soon be back in the workforce. In part, because of financial concerns. But also because Americans are living longer, and are growing bored with traditional retirement.

"I feel when you're a senior you have to keep busy to keep healthy otherwise you'll go downhill in a hurry," said Don Anderson, who retired in 1989.

An outlook on life that experts are hoping more retires take to, because as baby boomers get set to retire in 10 years there will be a stronger demand to keep retirees working.

"And I think we owe it to the next generation to work so that they will be able to manage the economy," said Millie Zimerman, Experience Works

The government is also seeing the need to retain older workers. They have raised the minimum age to receive full social security benefits this year to 67, and may change the tax code to provide incentives for older Americans to work longer.

But finding or keeping a job can be difficult. Some companies encourage early retirement, while some workers face age discrimination and can only handle a part-time shift or flexible work schedule meaning company's must become more attractive for mature workers or face the trials of a shrinking labor market.

"There is a readiness by many employers to bring back elderly people. They see the benefits they can offer to the job, and local company's like Hilander are adapting," said Dr. John Stolte, Director NIU Gerontology program. "They are a great source and one of our best workforces."

An opportunity seniors say not only give them a sense of purpose but make them feel alive.

"I feel happier now then I ever was before," said Bennett.

Now older American's seeking work can start by contacting the Illinois Department on Aging or Experience Works, a federally funded non-profit organization that helps mature workers find employment. Those numbers are in the yellow pages, or you can check out their Web site http://www.olderworker.org/

Older Americans also make up the backbone of volunteering, where working for money isn't the inspiration, but rather helping others. So experts say if older American's retire early, the volunteer sector would almost come to a halt.


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