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How Old Is Too Old to Work? | Fairygodboss
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Anti-ageism
This Survey Proves Working Seniors Have a Place in Our Workforce — And Are Not Retiring Anytime Soon
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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Ageism is real, and it affects a lot of women in the workplace who simply worry that they're "too old to work." If you're concerned that you're not "of age" anymore — that you're too far removed from the working world and, as such, won't fit in or have the know-how to perform up to speed with others in a working environment — you're not alone.

Your feelings are valid. The workplace is everchanging, and it's difficult to keep up with all of the technological advancements and workplace cultural shifts.

That said, age is just a number! And you're never "too old to work." There's work out there for you; it's just a matter of finding a job that suits you and your skills or getting yourself trained and educated to land a job you really want if you don't already have the skills.

What is “too old to work,” anyway?

There's no real such thing as being "too old to work." It's merely an unfounded societal perception that's rooted in ageism, which is defined as prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age. So, no, you're never "too old to work," but you may just not want to work (perhaps you want to finally retire!) or perform certain jobs after a certain age — or you may feel that you're not familiar with the skills or experience necessary to take on some roles by a specific age because training for the required skills didn't exist when you were in the workforce or you just don't have the experience. 

How old can a person work?

A person can technically work for as long as they want.  In fact, more than half (53 percent) of workers report that they expect to keep working beyond the age of 65, according to a survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Meanwhile, about 13 percent report that they don't plan on retiring at all.

The same survey asked what age might be considered "too old to work," and more than half of the respondents agreed it depends on the person and didn't identify a specific age. Of those who did offer an age, the median was 75 years old (which is a decade after the median age for retirement).

At what age do you stop working?

Again, the age at which you choose to stop working is totally up to you. Some people, as the aforementioned research suggests, never retire; others will work well into their 70s and beyond. 

So long as you're healthy and readily able to work, you can work. For example, another article published in the Journal of Gerontology, "Heterogeneity in Healthy Aging," suggests that more than three-fourths (77 percent) of seniors ages 75 to 79 years old don't have any health-based limitations in regards to their abilities to work or do housework.

Specifically, a substantial proportion of the older population reports that they consider their health to be "excellent" or "very good" at least:

  • 45 percent of those aged 60 to 64
  • 42 percent at ages 65 to 69
  • 38 percent at ages 70 to 74
  • 33 percent at ages 75 to 79
  • 30 percent at ages 80 to 84
  • 28 percent at ages 85 and over

Meanwhile, research suggests that older adults are even keeping up with technological advancements more than ever before. 

"America’s seniors have historically been late adopters to the world of technology compared to their younger compatriots, but their movement into digital life continues to deepen," according to the Pew Research Center. "In April 2012 the Pew Research Center found for the first time that more than half of older adults (defined as those ages 65 or older) were internet users. Today, 59% of seniors report they go online — a 6% point increase in the course of a year — and 47% say they have a high-speed broadband connection at home. In addition, 77% of older adults have a cell phone, up from 69% in April 2012."

So, if you're healthy and able and equipped with the necessary skills, you're free to carry on working if you so choose.

What age is considered an older worker?

Typically, a senior is defined as someone who is 65 years or older. But the ways in which people perceive "old age" are changing.

Research from John Shoven, an economics professor at Stanford University, suggests that the notion of "old" has actually been getting even older over the decades as people are, on average, living much longer lives. For example, "old" in the 1920s was considered about 55, which is now considered "middle-aged" today. "Very old" in the 1920s was considered about 65, which is now considered just "old" today.

Is age bias common?

Age bias is unfortunately very common in the working world. In fact, a joint Urban Institute-ProPublica analysis of data from the Social Security Administration and National Institute on Aging’s joint longitudinal Health and Retirement Study finds that many older adults face ageism. Unfortunately, the majority of workers over the age of 50 are likely to eventually be pushed out of their jobs either because of a subtly agist firing or because they're pressured to resign as a result of demotions, loss of their future benefits and/or deteriorating work conditions.  

How can I get a job at 60?

Getting a job at 60 may be more difficult than getting a job at 20 because, as mentioned, age bias is unfortunately common. To learn more about how to get a job as an older adult, consider these ways older women can stay competitive in today's workforce, how to handle the double whammy of being an older woman at work and the various job opportunities available for seniors.

How to embrace your age and welcome aging

Embrace your age! After all, with it comes a wealth of experience and knowledge that people much younger than you don't have. Remember that you've seen change in the working world; you've been around to witness different times, and you know the pace and ways in which the working world tends to evolve. That ability to adapt to change over time is a huge advantage that you have over people coming into the workforce as it is now with no prior experience.

So welcome aging because, with it, comes experience and wisdom.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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