The Future of Everything covers the innovation and technology transforming the way we live, work and play, with monthly issues on transportation, education, well-being and more. This month is Work, online starting Feb. 2 and in print Feb. 10.
When I turned 60 a couple of years ago, friends started asking about my retirement plans. This was shocking, given I’m just as healthy, energetic and curious about the world as I was at age 40. My parents lived until their 90s, so why on earth would I give up the most stimulating part of my life if I hope to live three more decades?
At the same time, my priorities were shifting in this later chapter of life. I wanted less stress and more time to process, create and mentor. I couldn’t see another decade in the pressure-cooker management job I’d had for years. I wanted to focus on what I loved most about the profession: reporting, writing and making an impact.
Like me, more people over 60 plan to continue working in the future—the share of workers 65 and over in the U.S. is expected to increase faster than any other age group between now and 2030—but no clear roadmap exists for how to do it. While I was lucky enough to have bosses who let me create a new reporting job, most companies don’t offer a choice between charging up the career ladder with full-time employment or jumping off the retirement cliff around age 65.
As life spans now extend toward 100, demographers, gerontologists, neuroscientists and employment experts are studying how to overhaul the workplace for the future to encourage people to work into the later stages of life. Companies are devising ways to taper down and deconstruct jobs by task, role or project to offer more options to older workers looking for more meaningful and flexible work. Benefits would be tailored to the needs of older workers—think unpaid sabbaticals and home grocery delivery—rather than just matching 401(k) funds. High-tech tools such as exoskeletons and robots are emerging to assist older workers in physically demanding jobs.