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Canadian retirees embracing encore careers

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NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: An older job-seeker takes notes during an employment seminar at a "Work Search" event aimed at older unemployed people January 18, 2011 at a high school gymnasium in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The event, sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), consisted of workshops for basic job skills like resume building targeted to an over-50 job seeking demographic. Unemployment for older worker has decreased slightly in the past year, though rates are still three times higher than they were a decade ago, when only 2.5 percent of people over 45 were jobless. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

A few months after he “retired” following decades of running his own businesses, David Frank decided he wanted to go back to work. Keen on keeping busy, he was 76 when he landed a job at Home Depot. That was 12 years ago.

Frank continues to work about 20 hours a week in the store’s hardware department. The Windsor, Ont. resident says he gets much more out of his part-time job than a welcome pay cheque.

“I’m certainly enjoying it,” says Frank, who used to operate a wall-covering business and a grocery store before that. “It keeps my mind active. One of the pleasures for me is when somebody wants a calculation. They whip out their iPhone, and I usually have the figure mentally figured out already.

“I have a lot of experience that can be put to use here, and I love dealing with people,” he adds. “It’s a perfect fit for me. It’s a constant learning experience.”

Frank is one of thousands of seniors across Canada who has traded gardening gloves for pay stubs in retirement.

Whether it’s working in a doctor’s office, a department store or a gourmet grocery, so-called encore careers combine continued income with personal fulfillment. Employers, meanwhile, increasingly recognize qualities that older workers can bring to a company: skills, knowledge, maturity, punctuality, reliability, dedication and pride in a job well-done among them.

According to Encore.org, a San Francisco-based non-profit corporation that helps people “pursue second acts for the greater good”, most encore career job opportunities seem to fall into five categories: education, health care, the environment, government and the non-profit sector.

The organization found the following jobs to be among those that will provide the greatest number of potential encore career opportunities in the coming decade in the United States:

  • nurses; personal and home-care aides; nursing aides, orderlies and attendants; and medical and health service managers
  • teachers, teaching assistants, and child-care workers
  • business-operations specialists, operations managers, receptionists and information clerks in non-profits and government

Older Canadians are increasingly participating in the labour force, according to the National Seniors Council, and the share of workers aged 55 and above has risen over the past decade. About 36.5 per cent of Canadians 55 years and over are engaged in the work force.

Among all employed Canadians in 2009, one in six was an older worker, up from one out of 10 in 2000. By 2036, the proportion of the labour force that will be 55 and over is projected to be 18.7 per cent, compared to 16 per cent in 2009.

Higher education levels, better health and longer life expectancies are some of the factors contributing to the rise in workforce participation. But others include inadequate retirement income and high debt levels.

According to a 2008 Statistics Canada survey of older workers, the primary reasons cited for returning to work post-retirement included social interaction and/or having something to do, job satisfaction, and financial need.

The National Seniors Council has found that workers no longer view retirement as a fixed point in time but rather as a gradual period of transition from working full time to exploring other options.

For people like Home Depot’s Frank, working enhances his quality of life. He travels in the winters and can work extra hours if he wants to. He says he feels respected by – and likes interacting with -- people of all ages.

“I get along with people young and old,” Frank says. “I like working. As long as I’m able to do it, I’ll continue to do it.”

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