Colin McConnell / Toronto Star
Jack Kearns is a retired optician who teaches at Seneca College Optical Clinic.
Moe Rotman was appointed as a Toronto Justice of the Peace at age 33. He finally decided to retire at the end of December last year, six months short of his 75th birthday. Rotman says he continued working into his 70s because he loved his job and it meant he could retire with a better pension.
At age 65, optician Jack Kearns sold his business in Ajax, Ontario. Four years later he started working half time in the Seneca College Vision Clinic, mentoring and teaching student opticians. He says working with young people helps him stay on top of industry developments and give back to the community.
Statistics Canada data mined by economists at both the TD bank and the CIBC reveal that Rotman and Kearns are among the leading edge of a wave of older Canadians who have dominated labour market gains in recent years.
A 2012 TD Economics Observation reports that since the jobs recovery began in mid-2009, individuals aged 60 and over have accounted for about one-third of all net new job gains — a striking figure considering they represented just eight per cent of the work force.
In fact, the TD study shows that this trend applies not only to people in the 60-65 age range, but also to those over 70. Employment for these individuals has surged by 37 per cent in the same period.
Not unexpectedly, study author and TD economist Frances Fong says retail is the most popular sector for older workers. But he notes that job gains for seniors have also been concentrated in professional, scientific, technical services and health care.
Many boomers are also leveraging their skills and experience to start their own businesses. A September 2012 CIBC study says in June of last year over half a million Canadians were involved in start ups (businesses less than two years old) and by far the fastest growing segment of the start-up market was the 50 and over age group.
And based on demographic trends suggesting the country can support about 150,000 net new businesses, CIBC World Markets economist Benjamin Tal predicts that half of these entrepreneurs will still be in business five years from now.
Dale Cramm had no idea how long his new venture would last when he retired at 56 from his position as head of the Unionville High School geography department to start a business as a home renovator and cabinet maker.
Thirteen years later, the Uxbridge resident is busy every day and has more work than he can handle. As long as he is healthy, retirement is not in the cards. He says, “I get tired sometimes but that’s when I am putting up ceramic tiles all day, or carrying bags of mortar.”
Pat Bossence also never expected that her post-retirement business would still be going strong 10 years later. The former manager of a Bell Canada call centre now does customized training for customer service representatives. She works about 26 weeks a year for private clients and teaching professional and corporate courses at St. Clair College in Chatham.
Bossence says her annual business income tops up her Bell pension by about 75 to 85 per cent of her salary at retirement. Although her husband Tim has fully retired from his job as CEO of Chatham’s Unigasco Community Credit Union, she says they still have lots of time together. “We go to the cottage in the summer and travel to Florida in the winter. I turn down work if it conflicts with my personal plans.”
Many knowledge workers have created their own post-retirement employment, but the situation is not as rosy for less educated seniors faced with voluntary or involuntary retirement. In fact, the CIBC study says the number of start ups by entrepreneurs with less than high school education fell from 33 per cent in 2009 to about 10 per cent currently.
That doesn’t surprise CAW Director of Pensions and Benefits Jo-Ann Hannah. She says many members of her union work at very demanding manufacturing jobs and by the time they retire they just don’t have a lot of energy to start something new.
“Our retirement planning workshops are very well-attended and people mostly talk about how they look forward to no longer having to set the alarm clock,” says Hannah. When they do look for post-retirement jobs, she says union workers are often shocked at the low wages and poor working conditions they are offered.
If you are an older worker, there is no doubt that finding a new job or a new career can be challenging. Almost all Canadian owners of small and medium-sized businesses recently surveyed by the Investors Group agree workers over 65 have more experience and expertise than younger workers. But when they hire new workers, they say it won’t be from this demographic.
Kearns says the best way for seniors to find career opportunities is to stay active in professional and business groups where they can continue to network. Volunteering is also a great way to get a foot in the door, says Bossence. “It’s an opportunity to help others and learn new skills, but it can also turn into a real job once employers and co-workers understand your capabilities.”
Some resources for older job hunters
Top employers for Canadians over 40: Detailed information about benefits and working conditions at companies judged to be friendly to older workers.
Seniors for Seniors: This agency is looking for younger seniors (age 60-65) to provide in-home care for older seniors (age 85 to 90).
Retired Worker: A website for both retired people who want to work and the employers who want to hire them.
Seniors for jobs: General site for workers over 45. There are links to some useful employment and life style pages.