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Queens Chronicle

Workforce graying as elders stay on the job

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Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012 11:00 am | Updated: 11:29 am, Thu May 3, 2012.

More older Americans nationwide are choosing to remain part of the workforce than they were a decade ago, according to data by the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. Whether the reason is financial necessity or personal satisfaction, one thing is certain, workers are going gray.

In March 2002, there were 59,651 civilian workers over the age of 55, according to NBLS data, compared to 79,520 for the same time this year — that’s a 33.3 percent increase.

Some 33,737 people over the age of 65 were working in 2002 compared to 41, 379 this year — an increase of 22.7 percent. There were 15,738 elders over the age of 75 on the job in March 2002 compared to 18,094 for the same time this year, a jump of almost 15 percent, according to NBLS data.

The average American expects to retire at 67, according to Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey, conducted from April 9 to 12. That’s up from 63 a decade ago and age 60 in the mid-1990s.

Only 26 percent of those surveyed said they planned to retire before the age of 65. Some 27 percent anticipate retiring at 65 and 39 percent after age 65 — that’s up from 21 percent in 2002 and 12 percent in 1995.

Here in the city’s most diverse borough there is no shortage of seniors who love their jobs and plan to work well into their golden years.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has spent more than five decades in public service acting as a judge and counsel to both a governor and mayor, as well as being the longest-serving DA in Queens County history.

“If you do something you really love, it does not feel like work,” Brown said in an email statement. “I continue to findmy job personally fulfilling and challenging.I amin the office by 7 a.m. each morning and am often the last to leave the building.”

Brown said he believes many seniors continue to work because it gives them a sense of purpose, self-worth and personal satisfaction, even if their work consists of volunteer activities.

Asked what advice he would give other seniors interested in staying on the job, Brown said, “It is important to remember that each of us accumulates a wealth of information and experiences over the course of our lives and we should continue to share that knowledge with others.”

And Brown isn’t the only elected official to feel that way.

At Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky’s (D-Flushing) re-election kickoff on Friday, the lawmaker was asked if she had considered retirement. She responded by saying, “I love this job. I’m proud of the work I have done, but there’s much more to do, and I can’t imagine retirement.”

Stavisky, 73, was elected on Nov. 2, 1999 with over 92 percent of the vote, and has been re-elected seven times. In 2010 she won with 87 percent.

Another female lawmaker planning to continue her decades of public service is City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), 70. She said it doesn’t surprise her that more people over 65 are working.

“In my case, I have been in the workforce for a very long time, to a point where I cannot even imagine my life where I simply stay home in leisure, Koslowitz said in an email. “I find keeping busy and staying constantly active very fulfilling.”

The lawmaker has spent nearly 30 years in public service, having first served in the City Council from 1991-2001, before being term-limited out. She was re-elected in 2009 and spends much of her time advocating on behalf of seniors, women and families to aid them improve their quality of life

“It helps when you have a job that you absolutely love,” Koslowitz said. “While there are some stressful days, at the end of the day, nothing is more satisfying to me than helping people.”

The Rev. Edward McKay, 72, of St. Albans works part-time as a real estate broker and notary public and is also a minister with Lighthouse Deliverance Church of Christ. He says staying employed keeps his mind sharp and he often encourages other seniors to do the same.

“Continue to be useful in the community,” McKay advised. “Don’t be a couch potato.”

McKay said the extra money he earns always comes in handy as the cost of living continues to increase, but he chooses to work more so because it gives him the opportunity to keep up with the times.

“Work keeps you active not only physically, but mentally,” he said. “You get to continuously upgrade your skills and education.”

Welcome to the discussion.