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More seniors stay in the work force

Published: Mon, February 18, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

The top urban county for working seniors was Franklin at 21 percent. Hamilton was at 19 percent, while Cuyahoga, Lucas, Montgomery, Stark and Summit were tied at 17 percent. Mahoning was 14 percent.

By Rick Armon

Beacon Journal staff writer


Even at age 70, Ron Hustwit has no itch to retire.

He has taught philosophy full time at the College of Wooster for 46 years and, unlike many friends and colleagues who chose to retire long ago, he still enjoys going to work.

“I don’t have any days when I say I have to put in another day at the office,” he said.

Hustwit, who lives across the street from the college campus, is one of a growing number of seniors who are opting to remain in the work force.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the percentage of people 65 or older still working rose from 12.1 percent in 1990 to 16.1 percent in 2010, driven largely by women.

And the bureau’s latest American Community Survey report shows even higher numbers. The figure was 19 percent nationwide and 18 percent in Ohio.

The reasons are varied. Some seniors are doing it strictly for the money, knowing they don’t have enough saved to retire or they are worried that they’ll outlive their savings.

Others — like Hustwit — know they would miss the social interaction at work or they have no burning desire to take up a hobby such as golf or traveling.

Then there’s a less obvious reason. A growth in service and office jobs doesn’t require major physical labor, allowing seniors to work longer or even enter the work force later in life.

“People are living longer, and they are healthier,” said Paul Magnus, vice president for work force development at Mature Services Inc., an Akron nonprofit that helps older workers find jobs. “To look at age 65 and think you have two decades left of active lifestyle, work is part of it.”

Retiring at a younger age is a relatively new concept, experienced only by about the last two generations, he said. Before, most people worked until they died.

Sterns, who is 70 and still works full time, grew up in a family that owned a department store.

“We used to say in the Sterns family: You die in the aisle making the sale. But you first finish the sale,” he said.

During a recent jobs program at Mature Services, the Beacon Journal asked people — not all were over 65 — why they wanted to return to the work force.

The No. 1 answer involved money.

Some said they or their friends didn’t plan well enough for retirement. Or, because of the recession, they started raising their grandchildren and needed the income.

Another popular reason was social. They don’t want to sit at home alone. Some said people who live longer seem to have two things in common: They work as long as they can and they eat oatmeal every day.

Women make up a rising percentage of seniors who work, according to the census.

Sterns, the UA gerontology professor, isn’t surprised. Women often enjoy the social interaction at work more than men, or they are forced to re-enter the work force after a divorce or staying home to raise a family, he said.

They also live longer than men. The life expectancy for women in the U.S. is 81, compared with 76 for men.

The latest American Community Survey report shows:

There are 1.6 million Ohioans who are 65 or older. More than 285,000 are still working.

Geauga County led the state with 25 percent of its seniors working. Delaware and Fayette counties were at 23 percent, and Champaign and Wayne were at 22 percent.

The top urban county for working seniors was Franklin at 21 percent. Hamilton was at 19 percent, while Cuyahoga, Lucas, Montgomery, Stark and Summit were tied at 17 percent. Mahoning was 14 percent.

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