Older workers

More older Americans are staying in, or trying to return to, the workplace. In fact, more than half — 54.7 percent — of those ages 60 to 64 were working at least part time in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among those 65 to 69, almost a third — 31.2 percent — were working. 

MANSFIELD -- Some do it because they want to stay busy. Some do it because of current economic hardship or future financial uncertainty. There is also a group who simply enjoy it.

Regardless of the reason, the simple fact is more Americans are working later in life than perhaps any time in the nation's history -- or at least since the advent of Social Security in 1935 as the nation suffered through the Great Depression.

In fact, more than half — 54.7 percent — of those ages 60 to 64 were working at least part-time in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among those 65 to 69, almost a third — 31.2 percent — were working.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 40 million Americans age 50 and older who are working.

During a 2018 National Press Foundation seminar in Washington, D.C., Richard Johnson, director of the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute, offered reasons for the rise in older workers.

"The population is getting older, fertility rates are quite low and people are living longer," he said.

Other reasons put forth include:

-- A higher percentage of jobs today are less physically demanding, making it easier for older folks to keep working.

-- Pension plans, in which the employer was responsible for retirement payments, are fading, leaving more workers responsible for their own later-life finances.

-- A tightening labor market in the last few years has left employers more open than in the past to keeping older workers, often among the first to go in a layoff. Studies suggest about 10,000 Baby Boomers a day reach the retirement age of 65, taking years of valuable experience with them.

In fact, McDonald's is looking specifically for older workers to fill positions once dominated by younger employees through a joint effort with the American Association of Retired Persons.

According to Ohio Job & Family Services, of workers employed in Ohio at the beginning of the second quarter of 2018, workers 55 and older accounted for 24 percent of employed workers. Workers 65 and older accounted for almost six percent of the workforce.

The industry sectors in Ohio with the largest percentages of workers 65 and older are 1) healthcare and social assistance, 2) retail trade, 3) educational services, 4) manufacturing, and 5) administrative, support, waste management and remediation services (which includes temp agencies).

Extrapolation of those numbers would mean more older residents in Richland County also remain on the job -- or are trying to get back into the workplace. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost one in five people in Richland County are 65 or older, about four percent higher than the national average.

According to the area's Workforce Development Board, which includes Richland and Crawford counties, almost 18 percent of adults 65 to 74 are working either full- or part-time. More than 51 percent between the ages of 60 and 64 are employed and more than 66 percent of local adults 55 to 59 are working.

According to Lori Bedson, assistant director of Richland County Jobs & Family Services, about 14 percent of the residents who come to the local OhioMeansJobs Center seeking employment are 55 or older.

Bedson said older residents face some of the same hurdles as their younger counterparts, including "lack of transportation, lack of a high school diploma or GED, compromised background, limited skills, health issues that might limit the person’s ability to work full-time or limit the types of positions he/she could work."

With a statewide jobless rate of just 4.4 percent in March, clearly there are jobs available for people of all ages.

That's true despite the depressing national statistic from ProPublica that 56 percent of all workers over the age of 50 will be forced from their jobs at least once -- and only 10 percent will ever earn the equivalent of what they previously made.

This comes despite the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, aimed at protecting the rights of workers over age 40.

For seniors not working and trying to get back into the workforce, experts offer job-seeking advice, according to websites like The Balance Careers, LiveCareer and WomenforHire:

-- It may be tempting, but don't accept a job that doesn't pay what you are worth. Like sex or race, age should never be a determining factor when it comes to salary.

-- Emphasize your experience. You may have decades of work history, something younger workers simply don't have. Highlight it in your job materials and interviews.

-- Highlight your job skills, in and out of the workplace. Almost every job has some requirements in common, including reliability, detail-oriented, patience and leadership skills.

-- Spend some time networking in the field of work you seek. It's an ideal way to learn about job openings -- and may help you get a foot in the door.

-- Age-proof your resume by limiting what you include and placing it in chronological order. This will help you avoid any stigma of being "too old" by a prospective employer. If you attended college, don't include attendance and graduation dates.

-- On your cover letter, highlight your most relevant experience to convince the reader of your experience in the field. Mention a few specific  accomplishments in the cover letter and quantify them using data and numbers wherever possible. Express some understanding of the company’s current challenges and demonstrate that you have solutions. Use the cover letter to communicate the personality traits and soft skills that your resume does not communicate.

-- Ace the job interview. Tell the prospective employer about creative ideas that improved your previous employer's bottom line or made the company more efficient. Articulate your enthusiasm and explain why you want to work for this organization. Demonstrate communication skills. i.e.  your ability to communicate is on display during a job interview. Provide specific examples. Don't just say you have good problem-solving skills. Describe a scenario when you successfully resolved an issue.

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"

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