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Retirees Who Are Seniors Returning to Work

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

We have attended events and local attractions where the first people on site are retired older adults. More often, we would be greeted by an older adult who acted as docents at the local zoo, park, and tourist site and who seemed more knowledgeable and happy to share information about the site. I thought back to different venues where I saw senior workers manning the ticket booths, the doors, at the sporting events, concerts, shows, and theaters.

These jobs didn’t require a whole lot of energy and seemed less physically strenuous, and seemed more suited for retired workers. A job to occupy their time 10-20 hrs per week and was ideal for seniors who were physically or mentally capable of spending time at a place they loved.

There are different reasons why older retired workers are drawn into the workforce, either part-time or full-time. Boredom and lack of finances would top the list for seniors to take on a job. Not just any job, but one that does not require a lot of responsibilities or paperwork and one that is fun, interactive, and would make it worthwhile at work. A job with a little more income to use for leisure, travel, or activities.

Over the years, I have attended shows on Broadway in New York, and more than 90% of the workers that took our tickets, scanned them, gave us the playbills, and ushered us to our seats were older adults who were retired. How fun is it to work at the shows where you could watch live performances each night of the week? How cool is it to be able to see performers on the big stage and greet them up close? These would be viable reasons to work at concerts, shows, and musicals because not only do you get to watch the shows for free, but you leave your house for something cool and exciting.

At the zoo and museums, the docents share their knowledge and expertise with visitors. These senior workers either have been vested in the work for most of their lives and are happy to teach others what they know or are just as happy to be at a place they love most. I have met retired educators at exploratorium and discovery museums, or at the zoo, working as docents for animals and sites for local tourist attractions. Senior workers who love music are more likely to be at music concerts and shows, and the more ardent athletic fans more often seek work at the local sporting events.

Each year more workers are not only at these fun and educational venues but are on airlines, in the travel industry, and sometimes in retail and hospitality. Working at these places can be lucrative, and senior workers on fixed incomes are more likely drawn to the jobs because of the perks and discounts. Who doesn’t like to pay a discounted price for premium services to explore new places and discover new things?

Rise in inflation is one of the driving forces for seniors to return to work. The rising cost of living, including housing, gas, and food, make it difficult for retirees who live on a fixed income from social security and pension to pay the bills. Working 10-15 hours alleviates the stress for the lack of funds and the gap in pay for seniors who need the income to survive.

The increase in the cost of healthcare is another reason for seniors to continue work after retiring. The ability to meet the gap in insurance plans and for medications and other health-related services is important for seniors who need ongoing coverage. The added cost of premiums and deductibles has become an added financial burden for seniors who may have a chronic diagnosis and will need extra funds for preventive healthcare services.

During the pandemic, the option to work from home or have a remote desk site was more popular among workers. Post-pandemic, remote work became ideal for seniors who found it to their advantage to cut back on commute time. Cutting back on travel to and from work and avoiding traffic seemed effortless and most seniors chose remote work part-time as a way to continue doing what they enjoyed from the comfort of their homes.

Loneliness among seniors who are living alone or are far from families and children is one of the contributing factors to depression. The feelings of “loneliness and isolation” were exacerbated by the pandemic when people had to stay at home. Some seniors find work outside the home to socialize with other workers and to help stave off feelings of loneliness and depression.

The next 30-50 years will see more seniors entering the workforce not only to survive but to find ways to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Not only are they filling the gaps in part-time work offered across most industries, but they will leverage their skills and knowledge to benefit younger peers and colleagues.

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