Increased desire to hire seniors makes retirement transitions easier.
As Paula Taliaferro sees it, a lot of employers have changed their attitudes toward hiring older workers over the last 10 years. And it's to the benefit of retirees looking to stay engaged in the workplace and pad their checking accounts at the same time.
Before, older workers often were seen as less healthy, less reliable and lacking in needed technology skills compared to their younger counterparts, says Taliaferro, education and outreach coordinator at the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging. But that has changed as employers have come to understand that older workers, especially ones seeking part-time positions, can be valuable assets to their organizations.
Taliaferro says many of the opportunities are for workers ages 65 and older who are seeking part-time positions and don't need employer-sponsored health insurance because they are covered by Medicare.
“Those folks don't have to look very hard for part-time jobs,” she says. “They're going to get lots of offers. There's been a huge realization by employers that these folks are like gold.”
That is the case, according to Taliaferro and others who work with senior citizens in central Ohio, because older people tend to be reliable and enthusiastic workers who are loyal to their employers, bring a wealth of experience to their jobs and serve as valued mentors to younger employees.
“They often go above and beyond what they're asked to do,” Taliaferro says, noting part-time opportunities abound in service industries such as food, retail, lodging, call centers and medical transportation.
In return, part-time workers can remain active in their professions but with a more flexible schedule, or they can explore a new line of work that has long appealed to them. Others may simply want to stay engaged in the world of work and keep the social interaction that comes with it. And many need extra income to supplement their retirement funds and cope with increasing healthcare costs.
A survey of older workers by AARP in 2015 found that 73 percent like what they do but want to do it on a part-time basis. Overall, 68 percent plan to work beyond age 65, and 37 percent plan to work in retirement. Of those, 44 percent want to try something new and 40 percent would like to seek “interesting/challenging” work.
“That's the new work reality,” says Luke Russell, associate state director of advocacy for AARP Ohio, “and it's not something that will disappear. People are healthier and living longer. They want to make money, continue to contribute to society and have flexibility in their work schedule.”
Many so-called “mature job seekers” want to continue their careers but with the flexible hours that come with part-time work, says Carol Ventresca, executive director at Employment for Seniors Inc. The Whitehall-based organization provides free employment referral assistance to clients ages 50 and up in central Ohio and job-posting services for employers.
“Employers are finding they need the vast information a retiree may have,” Ventresca says, “but need to allow for a more flexible schedule that these workers want. … Employers also say it's really wonderful when they can get their older workers together with their younger workers. The younger workers teach them new technology. The older workers teach them how to be better employees.”
Her organization provides a job-posting site with dozens of full- and part-time listings. Recent openings ran the gamut from delivery drivers, call-center customer service reps and receptionists to a doctor, accountant and teacher.
Ventresca also says it's a fallacy that older workers can't learn technology, pointing out that Facebook “is driven by grandmothers.” Taliaferro adds that senior workers will embrace new technology as long as their employers demonstrate how it helps them do their jobs.
In Ventresca's eyes, the biggest problem for older people seeking employment, even on a part-time basis, is that many have not been in the job market for decades.
“I've had people tell me the last time they looked for a job, they walked down the street, went into a business, shook the owner's hand and got hired the next day,” she says, adding that's certainly not how things work in today's world of job boards and online applications.
Older workers also can struggle to explain how the skills and experience they have accumulated transfer to the jobs they are seeking. In addition, they can face what Ventresca calls a “misassumption” by some employers that older workers “want a lot of money” like they earned in their prior careers.
“Most of the time,” she says, “mature job seekers understand they're doing something different that's at a different level, and it's not the same pay scale as before.”
Interim HealthCare of Columbus has found that scheduling flexibility is important to attract retirees looking for employment, including on a part-time basis. Frances Latousakis Bäby, a vice president with the home healthcare company, says Interim hires older workers to serve as companions and personal care assistants. Their work helps seniors remain in their homes.
She says Interim has found older workers to have a strong work ethic and to be reliable, attentive and productive.
“Most of our senior workers come from other career fields,” Bäby says. “Many have been in positions that require outstanding customer service skills, including the airline, auto, retail and hospitality industries. We also have individuals who have cared for a family member for an extended period of time and want to continue in a care-giving role.”
Interim home health aide Bonita Gore fits that description perfectly. She retired from her job as a customer service representative with Southwest Airlines to care for her ill husband. She found such caregiving to be personally rewarding and gained part-time employment with Interim five years ago.
“I like to be engaged with people,” Gore says. “Retirement gets old so quick unless you have a real plan. There's only so much housecleaning and travel you can do. You can start to lose touch with people and what's going on in the real world. I never want to lose that.”
That is what Dawson, a Columbus-based staffing and recruiting agency, hears from many of the retirees seeking part-time employment.
“It's mostly that they want to keep busy and are looking for a social outlet,” says Felicia Wilson, Dawson's director of marketing. “They don't want the stress of a high-level position or the commitment of a full-time job. They're looking to balance the freedom that comes with retirement with a sense of fulfillment from working.”
She cites a number of advantages that seniors bring to the workplace, including experience, leadership ability and mentoring skills. A lack of technological savvy isn't as much of an issue as it once was with that segment of the workforce, she adds, but fitting in culturally with younger workers can sometimes be a challenge.
Dawson sees the biggest demands for older part-time employees in the areas of clerical work, social services and warehousing, which Wilson says offers a number of jobs that are not as labor-intensive as most people think. The staffing agency also has a professional division that places workers in engineering, finance, accounting, creative and other positions.
Many attorneys continue to practice law on a part-time basis after reaching their firm's mandatory retirement age, says Jill Snitcher McQuain, executive director of the Columbus Bar Association. She cites examples of retired central Ohio attorneys who continue in an “of counsel” role at their firms, serve a single client, do mediation and arbitration work, or just represent a few clients in between rounds of golf. The same goes for retired judges who handle cases by assignment.
“For many,” says Snitcher McQuain, “being a lawyer is their identity. It's common for them to move into different roles after (retiring) from the law firm.”
Regardless of the profession or job, older full- and part-time workers should be aware of the rules governing how their income will affect their Social Security benefits.
For example, the Social Security Administration says that if workers begin receiving benefits before their normal retirement age of 66 or 67, depending on their year of birth, they will receive a reduced benefit. A worker can choose to retire as early as age 62, but that may result in a Social Security payment reduction of as much as 30 percent.
There is a lot to consider, but Taliaferro says older workers looking for part-time employment should take into account several things about finding a good fit in the workforce. One is that volunteer positions can often lead to employment with that organization or a related one. The other is the value of spreading the word through family members, friends and acquaintances that you are looking for part-time work.
“I think you'll find that someone will say, ‘I know a part-time position that will fit you well,'” she says.
Jeff Bell is a freelance writer.