Call them the unretired, the reinventors, the late bloomers. They’re the growing number of older people who are bypassing traditional retirement and instead are launching new careers, pursuing avocations, or taking part-time jobs.
Almost 19 percent of people 65 or older are working, according to the latest figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number is close to 62 percent of those ages 55 to 65.
Those numbers have been growing steadily, and you can expect the trend to escalate, according to Erin McInrue Savage, vice president of research at AgeWave in California. She cited a recent study in which 72 percent of people 50 or older surveyed said their ideal retirement includes work – what Savage describes as an “a oxymoronic state, somewhere between the traditional main career arc and a traditional retirement.”
A prime example: Karen Payne-Taylor, who at 64 retired this summer as program director at the Andover Senior Center and is jumping back into an old passion — music — with her also just-retired husband, Christopher. They plan to travel cross-country, booking gigs as they go, in what they call their “Getaway Car Tour.”
First stop is Brewed Awakenings coffeehouse in Lowell on Nov. 4.
The Payne-Taylors had been part of the punk rock scene in New York when they were young — their band was Karyn Satin and the Bedsheets — but left for Massachusetts to have a family and more conventional occupations. As retirement approached, they decided to get back to their roots performing their own songs – “kind of a post-punk acoustic rock” as a duo.
“This is such a major transition in our lives, it’s something we’re still getting our hands around,” said Christopher, who worked in marketing and branding for 35 years. “But we’re just absolutely thrilled to be able to do this at this point.”
Karen said her husband refuses to say they’ve retired, so instead they describe themselves as “at liberty. We were calling it a pause, but we’re not really pausing. I find I am so busy, and my life is so full.”
Tracey Gustafson, a computer engineer from Hudson, was looking for a change after 34 years in the highly technical field of chip design.
“I wanted something more part-time, less corporate America, something fun,” she said, adding that she also wanted to use her skills and experience.
She found the perfect match at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metro West in Marlborough where she’s working about 20 hours a week to help develop a program that gets young people exited about science, technology, engineering, and math. She works directly with the youngsters and their mentors, and also brings in outside professionals and companies to support the work.
“I feel like I have something to give, and that’s a great feeling at this point of my life,” she said.
Gustafson, 57, made the connection through an Encore Fellowship from ESC of New England, which matches seasoned professionals with nonprofit organizations, usually for a specific project or purpose.
Martha Bednarz, 60, of Beverly also was an Encore Fellow, using her corporate fund-raising skills at Boston Partners for Education, which recruits mentors for Boston public school students.
The fellowship ended in May, and she’s applied for another, while also volunteering with the Boston International Hostel and taking service trips to teach English in Poland.
“I would consider myself definitely not retired — the terminology is so difficult because it suggests not doing much and I really see it as an opportunity to do lots of new things,” she said. “Semiretired would be more accurate, but even that label doesn’t feel quite right. For me, it’s more sort of a period of exploration, a gap year.”
Ed Rinella of Hingham said he was trying to avoid boredom and looking for places to volunteer after he sold his financial planning business in the summer of 2016, when he was 70. He was already volunteering as a driver for the Hingham Senior Center and this summer heard about an opening there for a part-time transportation coordinator – a job he got in August. Without the job, Rinella said he probably “would be doing things that are not very productive — sitting around the house watching TV. I avoided taking up golf by working at the senior center.”
Among the drivers Rinella oversees are two other quasi-retired men: John Callahan and Tom Lydon, who are responsible for the medical runs at the center, taking seniors to doctors’ appointments and hospital treatments.
Lydon is a retired Boston schoolteacher. Callahan, who lives in Pembroke, was the food service director for the Weymouth public schools. He retired at age 59 to care for his elderly sick parents for two years and then started looking for part-time work — taking the Hingham job almost 13 years ago.
“I did not want to stay retired,” Callahan said, noting that he hoped the activity could stave off the dementia that claimed his father.
“He retired young at 62 and basically vegetated in his home. He sort of got out of touch with people and social environments; he didn’t need to work, but he certainly didn’t do a good thing for himself,” Callahan said.
He said that the extra income also was a factor, but said he works now “for sheer pleasure. I like driving. I like getting out, like meeting and greeting people. And it gives you a good feeling helping people.”Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.