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Post-retirement age work brings fulfillment

Oscar Martinez, 77, greeted diners at the Carnation Cafe at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Martinez says he loves his job as a chef.

Matt Sedensky/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Oscar Martinez, 77, greeted diners at the Carnation Cafe at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Martinez says he loves his job as a chef.

Not happy you can’t afford to retire? You might be glad you don’t.

A high percentage of older workers report they are pretty satisfied with their jobs, suggesting that if you have to work deeper into your golden years than originally planned, you may be the better off for it.

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Eileen Sievert, a French literature professor at the University of Minnesota, thought she would retire by age 65. But she’s 70 now and loves her work so much that she can’t imagine leaving.

Instead Sievert is phasing in her retirement by slowly scaling back her hours over time.

“I just like the job,” Sievert said. “And you don’t want to leave, but you don’t want to stay too long.”

Older workers such as Sievert seem to be uniformly pleased with their work situation.

A study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago found that 9 in 10 workers who are age 50 or older say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job — much more so than younger people.

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Older workers generally have already climbed the career ladder, increased their salaries, and reached positions where they have greater security, so more satisfaction makes sense, said Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey, one of the most comprehensive polls of American attitudes.

Oscar Martinez, 77, works at the Carnation Cafe at Disneyland in California. The chef is the park’s longest-tenured employee, beginning as a busboy nearly 57 years ago.

Matt Sedensky/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Oscar Martinez, 77, works at the Carnation Cafe at Disneyland in California. The chef is the park’s longest-tenured employee, beginning as a busboy nearly 57 years ago.

“It increases with age,” said Smith, whose biannual survey is conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. “The older you are, the more of all these job-related benefits you’re going to have.”

Smith says earlier in life, people are uncertain what career path they want to take and may be stuck in jobs they despise.

Though some older workers stay on the job out of economic necessity, many others say they keep working because they can’t imagine quitting and genuinely like their jobs.

“To me, when I work, I’m happy,” said Oscar Martinez, who at age 77 still rises at 3 a.m. to commute to his job at a restaurant in Disneyland.

Walter Whitmore said he has plenty of things to do outside his work as an account representative for a grocery distributor, but having a reason to get out of the house each day brings a certain level of fulfillment.

He sees working as keeping him vibrant.

“It wasn’t a goal to live to do nothing. You live to accomplish things,” the 58-year-old Silver Springs, Ark., resident said. “You have to maintain that functionality or you turn into Jell-O.”

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