Retire At 65? Not Any More

Environmental and societal changes are adding to the deferment of retirement. Today, life expectancy in the United States is at an all-time high of 77.4 years. The shift from manufacturing to more computerized, less physically demanding jobs enables older workers to stay on the job. And, Congress recently raised the age at which retirees qualify for full Social Security benefits from age 65 to 67, thus encouraging workers to remain in the workforce.

In 2004, almost one-third of workers aged 55 and older plan to retire at or older than age 66, according to the Retirement Confidence Survey, which reports annually on the retirement expectations of workers. Plus, approximately 70 percent of workers between ages 25 and 54 expect to work in retirement.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tells us that once the oldest baby boomers reach age 65 in 2011, the population will begin to age rapidly. And the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that between 2000 and 2040, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will more than double.

Help for the Worker Shortage

"Based on data supplied by The Bureau of Labor Statistics, we believe that by the year 2010, we will have a shortfall of 10,033,000 skilled workers. The magnitude of this shortage will make the late '90s seem like a practice session," says Joyce L. Gioia, author of Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs, Too Few People and president of The Herman Group.

Bottom line: Older workers can be key figures in soothing the impending worker shortage crisis. This looming shortage will result in fewer workers available to produce goods and services, threaten standards of living and dramatically reduce Medicare and Social Security funding. Higher employment rates among older adults could increase the labor force and reduce claims on retirement benefits.

Older Americans can make a profound difference for U.S. employers because of the knowledge and wisdom they possess, says Gioia. "We are seeing a new trend that personally brings us pleasure: Older workers are being valued over younger ones for their stability and wisdom."

However, employers will have to learn to be more flexible if they want to hold on to this valuable human capital. They will have to offer part-time work, as well as job sharing and other accommodations.

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