Older workers make up larger part of work force

One in five American workers today is over age 55 – almost double the number of 20 years ago – as Baby Boomers hold on to their jobs because they can’t afford to retire, according to a recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

During the same period, the percentage of workers age 25 to 55 has fallen substantially, from 84 percent to 73 percent of the work force. Analysts said it’s not clear whether older workers are filling a work gap or closing off opportunities for younger workers.

More U.S. workers are delaying retirement and working longer for the following reasons:

The poor economy


Can’t afford to retire


A change in employment situation


Healthcare costs


Lack of faith in Social Security


Higher than expected cost of living


Have enough money to retire


Poor health or disability


While about one quarter of workers extend their working years beyond what they had planned earlier, the median age at which Americans expect to retire has remained stable at 65 years for the 24 years the study has been in effect.

About 7 percent of workers today are older than 65, trending steadily upward from 4.1 percent in 1997.

An increase in the number of women over age 55 in the work force has made up a large part of the increase. In 1997, the percentage of female employees in the 55 to 59 age group was 47.9 percent, compared to 67.2 percent today.