Search the LHSFNA website
Published: July, 2011; Vol 8, Num 2

 

Gray Matters:

Caring for Elders,

Working Late in Life,

Dreaming of Retirement…

“For many people approaching retirement, the golden years lack their expected luster,” says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Take a look at the first crop of Baby Boomers, now turning 65. They’re almost eligible to receive Medicare and full Social Security, but many have no plans to file. Instead, they plan to keep on working.”

Alternate description

LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman
Armand E. Sabitoni

A survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) finds that many members of the post World War II demographic – 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – expect to work anywhere from one to ten years longer than originally anticipated. Whether white-collar, blue-collar, managers or laborers, for reasons that are economic and multi-generational, most cannot call it quits.

Lack of savings keeps many of them on the job. Some never accumulated much in the way of reserves. Unlike Laborers, many do not have pension plans. Others have seen their nest eggs depleted by recession. And now a new family dynamic adds emotional and financial strain: Today’s aging workers are the “sandwich generation” – their children and parents may be dependent on them.

If children are younger, ordinary family expenses plus the need to save for college sap finances. Nowadays, however, the costs of children often continue into their adult years. In these difficult economic times, more parents than ever are providing financial assistance to grown offspring who are struggling to make ends meet.

At the same time, with life expectancy approaching 78 years, these Boomers are oftentimes also caring for their parents. Extended eldercare was not well known in 1940, the year Social Security became law. Back then, life expectancy was only 63. Dealing with aging parents during retirement was uncommon. Today, it is routine. Over half of all eldercare is provided by the elders’ grown children. As life spans continue to increase, eldercare will be the norm for successive generations as well.

With so many family responsibilities, much of this generation is uncertain whether and when it can afford retirement. With noses to the grindstone, they often only vaguely understand how Social Security and Medicare work or how much savings it takes to maintain a secure retirement. Meanwhile, they continue to work, and, overall, the nation’s workforce is graying.

For employers, a graying workforce, even in a physically demanding industry like construction, is a boon. These workers bring maturity and expertise to the jobsite, but also the aches and pains that come with being older. Working at older ages is not what anyone was raised to expect. It is particularly problematic for Laborers who developed chronic injuries or illnesses through their work. Forced into early retirement, but in need of income to meet their multi-generational obligations, many are searching, after construction retirement, for less physically demanding jobs. What they find usually pays considerably less than what they earned as construction Laborers. For employers and workers alike, adjustment to gray-aged work has become a modern-day necessity.

“Aging and its issues are different for each generation, making them difficult to predict and assess,” says Sabitoni. “Often, the options aren’t clear until they’re right upon us. It’s best to be proactive. Educating yourself is the key to making the best decisions.”

[Janet Lubman Rathner]