Guest opinion: The rise of the un-retired

  • Wednesday, December 22, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion

The un-retired are those who are retiring from retirement. They are those who have either reached an established retirement age or are otherwise (financially) prepared to leave behind the world of every day employment.

For the past decade or two, there has been a trend among those who reach traditional retirement ages — they have not been retiring.

In fact, in the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that up to 2024, both the 65-74 age group and those aged 75-plus will have faster rates of labor force growth annually than any other age groups.

There are many reasons for this.

One over-riding reality is that many of those over 65 have a skill base and a willingness (perhaps even a psychological or financial) need to work.

Steady employment, if nothing else, organizes and structures your daily (or weekly) schedule.

Another reality, especially in these days of ubiquitous labor shortages, is that the market desperately needs those skills and the perspectives of those who have been around for more than the past couple business cycles.

The pandemic, as in every other area, has complicated things.

The un-retired are a bit more reluctant to expose themselves to any widespread contagion.

This is a large contributor to the labor shortage we see expressed by the “Help wanted” signs on almost every business establishment.

I’ve mentioned before on theses pages that, according to AARP, 10,000 Americans are retiring every day.

This has been the case for several years now.

The pandemic has amplified this demographic shift dramatically.

Many of us are even taking (or have already taken) early retirements. And this will hold true at least for the duration of the pandemic.

But then what?

More than the money (which might be essential) a clear sense of purpose is what defines us.

And if we are healthy enough, an entirely new direction, an unopened chapter, might be the preferred option.

Especially one that allows for a flexible or reduced schedule.

Know of any interesting job openings? (asking for a friend)

In short, more and more of us are looking for a purposeful transition into the next stage of our productive working lives.

And, on the other side, employers are looking to expand the range of options for older employees at this important life stage.

Charities and non-profit organizations in particular, are solving social problems and bridging generational divides.

For lots of obvious reasons, they face major skills shortages across the job spectrum — most often for operational activities.

For the first time in many decades, more power (or choice) is in the hands of potential workers.

Just in the past year or so, for example, I have seen many employment opportunities, that, at a previous situation in my life, would have been my “dream” job.

Employment, perhaps more than at any other time, is far more than an economic transaction; our work defines to a large degree where we live, how and where we establish ourselves and, often, our friendships and relationships for life.

Demographic, economic realities

After leaving their mid-life careers, 30 million Americans between 45 and 70 want to transition into work that combines personal meaning, social impact and continued income.

Many social service and private sector organizations are struggling to access the leadership talent they need to build capacity, grow strategically, and ultimately meet their mission and goals for a larger social impact.

Given shifting demographics and a future labor force with five generations working side by side, Encore Fellowships are a model for innovating using experienced talent to benefit communities. Call it an adaptive reuse of human-capital. – Marc Freedman, President & Ceo,

If you, or someone you may know, is looking for some variation on life after a traditional career, is a good place to start.

Among other career or volunteer opportunities, many colleges and universities are offering encore programs to experienced adults so they can acquire new knowledge and skills that employers need, gain credentials and prepare for successful transitions to roles with social and local impacts.

Some of these programs focus on training or credentialing for specific roles while others provide a “gap year” of sorts for people who want some time and support to help figure out how best to plan for and move into an encore role.

One example is Gen2Gen, a five-year campaign to mobilize 1 million people over 50 to help kids thrive.

If that sounds appealing to you, there are many ways to get involved. Use the opportunity finder to search for local volunteer opportunities specifically tailored to people 50 or better.

As you might guess, most (un) retired people prefer to stay relatively close to their established homes.

But if that un-retired person in your life wants to travel or has some other location in mind, be sure to have them check out this site ( for other, even a few international, opportunities.

However these dynamics impact our job markets, our economies or our personal incomes and schedules, we have not seen the end of those who could retire, but don’t.

Like everything else in the 21st century, it seems, even retirement is not what it used to be.

Morf Morford is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index.

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