As the fastest growing demographic in Canada, seniors are a huge part of the fabric of our country. Many of us make the mistake of assuming that those over 65 will retire, but figures show this is far from the truth. Historically, this was a typical age for most people to have retired by, but longer life spans and better health care mean that there are plenty of seniors still working long past their 65th birthdays.
For many, the reasons are twofold. Perhaps work gives them purpose in life and adds a social element to their days. For others, they continue to work out of necessity. Statistics Canada released figures in 2018 that broke down the reasons why seniors still work long after typical retirement ages. They found that close to one-third of persons aged 60 and over wanted to work in the previous year, and 80% of this group said work was their primary activity. Less than 5% reported being retired as their primary activity during the last year.
In the 2015 census, one in five Canadians aged 65 and older, or nearly 1.1 million seniors, worked during the year. These are the highest proportions recorded since the 1981 Census. Since 1995, the number of seniors actively participating in the Canadian workforce has steadily climbed. Check out the graph below for a visual representation of this growth.
On top of this, many seniors are actively engaged in unpaid work, like caregiving and volunteering. They exchange their services for a sense of purpose and “giving back to the community” as opposed to merely working in exchange for money. Volunteers are the backbone of communities and non-profit organizations which provide much-needed care and assistance to the vulnerable. Without the help of volunteering seniors, many of these organizations might disappear.
It’s common knowledge that high school students are the most active volunteer group in Canada, but the second most active volunteer group is seniors. One interesting statistic of note is that although more young people volunteer, the seniors that do volunteer give more hours. On average, youths aged 15 to 24 give 130 hours of their time, whereas the average volunteering seniors will devote an average of 223 hours.
But volunteering is only one way that seniors contribute, others prefer to stay in the workforce, and some even change jobs once they retire from their primary career. They see working through retirement age as giving them a new lease on life. Perhaps throwing themselves into once forgotten passions, or finally chasing a lifelong ambition. Others might see it as a chance to try something entirely new, and start a new career, even if at a slightly slower pace.