It's not just Joe Biden. Plenty of Americans are now working into their 80s.
- The number of working Americans aged 80 or over — such as President Joe Biden — has risen from 1980.
- Medical advancements made working longer possible, and that, in turn, can have health benefits.
Plenty of Americans are grinding through their golden years.
Octogenarians outside of the executive branch are also extending their careers. A Washington Post analysis using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that working octogenarians reached a high in 2019, with roughly 734,000 octogenarians in the US workforce that year compared to roughly 110,000 in 1980.
Though the share of people who are at least 80 years old and have a job has risen, it's dropped slightly in recent years, according to an Insider analysis of employment-population ratios using Current Population Survey data from IPUMS.
As seen in the above chart, 5.16% of Americans aged 80 and over had a job in 2022 as of October. In the full year of 2021, the share was 5.67%; that's higher than the 4.75% a decade earlier in 2011. In 1980, just 2.53% of Americans aged 80 and over held a job.
The average retirement age for American men is 64, while the average for women is 62, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, both figures that have climbed since the 1990s.
Although the share of Americans age 80 and over with a job has tumbled some from it's high in 2018 per Insider's analysis, there are still plenty of older workers working past typical retirement age. That could be due to a desire for purpose, a need for an income, or medical advancements that keep people more able to work into their golden years. It could also be because older workers have become more empowered, Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst at the Senior Citizens League, told Insider.
"If we enjoy what we do, why stop working?" she said. "There's been a big change in thinking about retirement."
Some seniors have a "working retirement" for a sense of purpose, while others are forced to keep collecting a paycheck
Johnson also credited modern healthcare advances with enabling people over the age of 80 to enjoy "higher functioning health for longer than in the past," and said that older people will often remain in the workforce, retire to start businesses, or volunteer in order to stay mentally stimulated, what she calls a "working retirement."
"Some of us feel that we would be bored without the sense of fulfillment and purpose we had while working," she said.
Research confirms the health benefits of that fulfillment: a 2018 study published by the Center for Retirement Research showed that "working longer is associated with lower mortality, depression, and diabetes risk for both men and women."
"Workers ages 80 and up are not as likely to be motivated by health insurance and retirement benefits, since they are Medicare-eligible and already receiving Social Security benefits," Courtney Coile, professor of economics at Wellesley College and co-director of the NBER Retirement and Disability Research Center, told Insider in a statement. "Workers in this age group most likely belong to one of two groups — people who really enjoy their work or people who can't afford not to work."
In general, many older people simply just can't afford to retire.
"Some people may need to work because they need the money, don't have enough savings, or they have spent through it," Johnson said. "Others may continue to work if they have high cost family healthcare obligations, such as a spouse with Alzheimer's or a disabled adult child or sibling."
An AARP survey of people 50 and over found that 42% are working in retirement or think they will need to due to financial reasons. And that's evidenced by poverty rates among older Americans standing higher than a decade ago as of 2021. The poverty rate for people who are at least 65 years old had increased from 8.9% in 2020 to 10.3% in 2021 according to Census Bureau data. The rate in 2021 is higher than the 8.7% in 2011.
"There are many factors contributing to people working longer — these include improving health and longevity, rising education and a shift towards more 'age-friendly' jobs in the economy, and changes in retirement benefits, such as the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans in employer-provided pensions and an increase in the Social Security full retirement age," Coile said.
However, not all older Americans want to keep working as they get older and will exit the labor force. This will affect ongoing hiring woes. According to a recent report from Indeed and Glassdoor on long-term labor market trends, "demographic shifts and aging populations mean hiring will remain challenging for years, as labor supply issues will remain." That's the case in the US and other countries.
"We are living the changes that we've talked about for some time right now," Svenja Gudell, chief economist of Indeed, previously told Insider. "The pandemic was the accelerator to that fire, and now we're dealing with an acutely aging population."
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