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Business Monday: Working and playing into your 90s – Mary T. O’Sullivan

Working and Playing into Your 90s

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL, contributing writer on business leadership

“An aging population is shaking up our country. Why it’s happening and what it means.” – AARP

Have you noticed the greeter at your local Walmart? This person is most likely not a teenager working to save money for college, but a retiree who may need that minimum wage job to supplement their income or choose to work to ward off boredom, loneliness, and the isolationism that comes with a dramatic change in daily life.

Either way, older workers are now both staying on the job they’ve had for years and finding something else more purposeful to do. Older workers are seeking extra income, and others search for something more meaningful, but wherever you go, you’ll find these older people in some role. \

“One of the reasons older Americans are working is that they need the extra income…” Bradley Schurman, Demographics Consultant.

According to AARP, the number of workers aged 65 and older has increased by 117% in the last 20 years. In addition, working people aged 75 and older have increased their numbers by the same amount!

The hiring of older workers is not a sign of gentler workplace attitudes but a signal that many jobs are going unfilled due to lack of qualified personnel. Right here in Rhode Island, major companies are ramping up huge manufacturing jobs, with few new qualified welders, electricians, pipe fitters, etc. to replace them. Some of these workers have been on the job for 50 years or more. And all this despite rampant ageism still apparent in the workplace, as AARP notes.

When I retired in 2014, I immediately trained to become an executive coach and HR Consultant and have been doing so for the last 10 years. I also became qualified for several other certifications and licenses. I wrote a business book and became a columnist, an adjunct at a local university, online executive coach, and keynote speaker. I seriously didn’t know how to stop that drive that had kept me going for 30 years. Lately, though, I began to consider adding some fun and different people besides clients and work acquaintances into my life. I was looking for more purpose, more reasons to get up each day, and to always have something to look forward to. I joined several groups, some with success, some not, but I did find ways to meet new people and engage in new activities, many which help others gain success.

People discovered that work is not the only pastime for those over 65. Looking for life’s value also drives them. If you’ve seen the movie Bucket List, you know that two old men meet in a cancer ward and decide to take off and realize their dreams before they “kick the bucket”. Some older people see work as meeting that missing lifelong fulfillment. Others seek travel, career transitions, and closer ties to church, family, and social causes as the answer. The message of The Bucket List could be that “Family, friends and even faith are, at the literal end, more worthwhile than all the money in the world.” (Plugged In)

Due to the marvels of medical science and improvements in health care, people are also living longer, and sometimes that puts a strain on their incomes, but it also provides greater opportunity for more fun and adventure; things they often put off while raising their families. Rather than bemoan the plight of the empty nesters, they can go back to work by choice or necessity, or have time for starting a business, or pursuing leisure or social interests. If you go to the gym on any given weekday mid-morning, you will encounter the gray-haired crowd, a gabby bunch of seniors blocking the entrance way, oblivious to someone who might be on a schedule. Same for your doctor or physical therapy appointments; everyone there is nursing a hip or knee replacement or walking with a cane or walker. I began to call it “the elderly hour”. I cringe when I see older people who haven’t taken care of themselves over the years – that bent over old lady on the next table is probably the same age as I am. It’s an awakening that keeps me on my toes, forces me to stay engaged and keeps me coming back to the gym and the yoga studio.

When you’re younger and raising a family, it’s hard to heed the wise words of Suze Orman when advising parents not to pay for their kids’ college education: “There is no loan for retirement”. No one wants to be the 82-year-old pizza delivery man or the 89-year-old working as a Walmart cashier in order to pay the bills.

But we can thank Social Security for our ability to enjoy a fruitful retirement: “Before Social Security, most people’s retirement plan was death…” – Vox.

So, take a part time job to pass the time or get extra income, go back to school, volunteer, help others, travel, start a business, check items off your bucket list, but make sure you have the dollars to do it before you walk out the door.

“This whole notion of an independent, work-free retirement is truly a modern one.” – Vox

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Connect with Mary:

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.

Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.

Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.

Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.

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