Older Americans alter attitude on work, retirement

By Jimmy Sailors

The Dothan Eagle

Published: Saturday, Nov. 9 2013 8:48 p.m. MST

Norris Danzey helps 11-year-old Tynisha Shazel with her homework at the Hawk Houston Boys and Girls Club in Dothan, Ala., on Oct. 29, 2013. Norris Danzey served 30 years in the Navy before he retired as a lieutenant commander in 2001, but he wasn’t ready to quit working.

Danny Tindell, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

DOTHAN, Ala. — Norris Danzey served 30 years in the Navy before he retired as a lieutenant commander in 2001, but he wasn't ready to quit working.

During the years he spent with young recruits, he saw the problems some had when they came into the military.

"I felt like if I could do something about those problems while they're young, then by the time they get to going in the military or whatever, maybe they're a little more disciplined, a little more able to make a good choice as to what they want to do in their lives," Danzey said.

In 2006 he graduated from the child development program at Wallace Community College. Four years later he graduated from Troy University-Dothan with a bachelor's degree in elementary education.

As the program coordinator at Boys and Girls Clubs of Hawk-Houston, Danzey helps the kids and tracks their progress.

"If they're doing good, that lets you know what you're doing here is working," Danzey said.

Danzey has a job he finds important and fulfilling, but for many Americans working longer isn't just an option. It's a necessity.

A nationwide Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey of 1,024 adults ages 50 and over conducted in August and September shows a shift in attitudes about work, aging and retirement.

By 2020 about 25 percent of the U.S. workforce will be composed of workers ages 55 and over, up from 19 percent in 2010. It is a segment of the population that is not only growing rapidly in numbers but is also substantially healthier than previous generations.

"Retirement is not only coming later in life, it no longer represents a complete exit from the workforce," said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center. "The data in this survey reveal s strikingly different views of retirement among older workers today than those held by the prior generation."

Robert Crowder, executive director of the Southern Alabama Regional Council on Aging, said the realities of today's economics make working longer mandatory in a lot of cases.

"One of the biggest factors is people are living longer," he said. "The fastest growing segment of our senior population is those people that are over 85."

Having enough income to survive those later years is the problem. Uncertainty about health and living costs and what government programs will provide have people questioning how much they need to have saved.

For people making minimum wage or working in nominal jobs, Crowder said it's hard to save much of anything.

"They're working their lives, living day to day," he said.

When unexpected things happen that increase their expenses or cut their income, they often aren't prepared.

The need for health insurance grows more important as they get older, when the possibility of a heart attack, stroke, catastrophic illness or injury increases.

"People are living longer, so naturally the probability of them having one of those things happen to them is a whole lot greater," Crowder said. "It's just a matter of when."

The types of jobs have changed. Crowder said his grandparents were farmers in what was then a farming community.

"When I was a kid there was corn and cotton grown inside the (Ross Clark) Circle, a lot of it," he said.

What used to be agrarian has become more urban. Retail and office workers make up a bigger portion of the workforce.

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