Retirement for many low-income seniors is receding into the future, according to a new survey of unemployed seniors age 55 and older with limited financial resources. Ninety-two percent of seniors in this category said they plan to work for at least the coming five years either because they need the money or because they desire to do so. Of those with a retirement date in mind, the average target was 72 years.
The survey of 2,072 seniors enrolled in the Senior Community Service Employment Program, a job training program for low-income older workers funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, found that 45 percent had expected to be retired at this point in their lives, with 28 percent having retired once only to be forced back into the work force. Sixty-eight percent reported their retirement income to be inadequate to live on.
In many cases, a life event triggered their application to the jobs program, such as being laid off from their previous job (20 percent), the death of a spouse (16 percent) or medical bills for themselves or their spouses (15 percent). Forty-six percent expressed their concern that they might lose their home or apartment, and the same percentage reported sometimes going without food or medicine or falling behind in the rent.
According to Cynthia Metzler, CEO of job training program Experience Works, “These people are at the age where they understandably thought their job searching years were behind them. But here they are, many in their 60s, 70s and beyond, desperate to find work so they can keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.”
Most of the older job seekers have been struggling to find work for many months, and approximately half have been seeking employment for more than a year. The job seekers cited the poor economy, increased competition and their own lack of education, skills and training as reasons for their difficulty in finding a job. Many also reported prejudice from employers, who believe younger workers are less expensive and more productive, while older workers resist change and can’t learn new things.