Article by Chris Thomas, of Public News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. – If there’s something fun or carefree about getting older, it can’t be found in a new survey of people age 50 and older in Oregon. Instead, eight in ten respondents said they’re worried about their financial futures, health-care costs and having the ability to stay sharp and healthy as they age.

Chad Cheriel, an AARP volunteer and senior research associate at Portland State University’s Institute on Aging, says even those older Oregonians who once felt well-prepared for their golden years are not so sure today.

“They counted on their houses; the equity has gone down significantly because of the housing market. Whatever savings they have have been halved, or 30 to 40 percent wiped out. I know that’s being rebuilt, but it’s going to take a long time, and those who retired may not have the time to recover.”

Cheriel says 30 percent of retirees rely on Social Security as their primary source of income, and for 60 percent of retirees, it makes up about two-thirds of their monthly income. Oregon’s number of people age 65 and older is expected to double in the next 20 years.

Retirement doesn’t seem to be in the picture for many aged 50 and older, according to the AARP survey. More than 60 percent said they intend to work at least part-time because they have to for financial reasons. Gerontologist Vicki Schmall of West Linn, executive director of Aging Concerns, says many of the younger seniors are also caring for older relatives.

“The number-one resource in terms of support of older adults who become frail and need assistance comes from family – about 80 percent of all support. We need to support families when they are in that role, as well as looking at what we can do to strengthen our community-based services to older adults.”

Half of the survey respondents said they expect to face difficulty finding affordable long-term care if they need it, and two-thirds said they are worried about their ability to pay for any kind of major illness or injury. 

Chris, this isn’t happening just in Oregon; it seems thousands of senior citizens well over fifty years of age are continuing to work into their seventies.  Most need the income to supplement their Social Security income – and these are not benefits, as some in government describe: this is income that they have all paid into since they began working as young persons,  (Unless they were employed as teachers and paid into teachers retirement). 

Many companies have designed “phased retirement,” which allows workers to scale back on their hours.  Many U.S. employers have offered workers a softer landing into retirement, which lets them scale back hours as they prepare to move into a part-time position, until they decide to retire.  Phased retirement gives employees a way to maximize their retirement savings and the company gains by retaining a highly experienced employee who has often built close ties with coworkers and clients. 

Older workers take pride in their experience, and know exactly what they are capable of doing, especially if the job requires physical labor.  They should continue safety training, the same as new employees, and share their skills with newcomers. 

Congratulations to those who are able to retire when they desire, but for those who want to stay busy, everyone is a winner, the senior citizen and the employer.  Pat