In talking to retirees, it surprises me to discover a considerable number of men and women in their 70s and 80s who continue to hold paying jobs.
An even larger group of past-65 retirees, however, either by choice or because they want to work but felt they cannot get a paying job, assist various organizations as volunteers.
Unquestionably, full employment and a shortage of younger workers have opened a door for elderly individuals. Likewise, employers belatedly have learned that efficiency is not a matter of age.
The situation has been better for those over 72. At that age one may earn without having Social Security pensions reduced. Those of earlier age have not been so fortunate and often hesitated to take paying work because of the penalty imposed on extra earnings. But that is due to change soon, when the President signs into law a measure that would abolish Social Security's income limits.
In addition to the worker shortage, employers also gradually have learned that mature persons often have special qualifications which make them highly desirable employees.
Oldsters have earned their right to benefit from whatever they earn, the same as any other worker, and if given a fair shake, many more probably would rejoin the work force.
Retirees, with a few exceptions, usually are not dependent upon supplemental wages and so are far less demanding than many younger workers. A few are in genuine need of money, but the vast majority take a job because they crave activity and actually like to work.
Employers greatly benefit from the positive attitude as well as the stability of the mature individual. Most retirees have a long-established home and are satisfied with their environment.
With jobs easy to get, younger people tend to become restless and are unlikely to remain long at the same place.
As the population ages, retirees, I suspect, will like the idea of returning to the workforce. For those who dislike regular hours, volunteer work without pressure probably is the route to go. However, those who prefer to supplement their pensions and shrinking investments should not be denied the opportunity.
The problem for most retirees is in getting a job tailored to their physical abilities. In an open employment market, they often have little chance against a younger person.
Unfortunately, volunteer work, which should offer a path to a paying job, rarely turns out that way. Organizations have great need for nonpay volunteers. When they add an employee to the paid staff, some do consider offering the job to a volunteer whose worth has been proven. A great many employers, however, never dip into the reservoir of individuals already on hand.
For the retiree who seeks activity but not the obligation of regular work, volunteer service fills a great void. Those who want to be considered for a paying job where they volunteer should let that be known.
The best part of the situation is that today's retirees have a choice. Most pensions and Social Security payments cover an individual's basic economic needs. So one may accept complete leisure as a reward for previous years of labor, or, as age discrimination is gradually stamped out, one may continue indefinitely in the workforce.