Forging an Encore Career as a Senior


If you or a loved one are coming to retirement age, you have several choices ahead of you: stay at your current job, retire from your current job and stay at home, or retire from your current job and innovate a second career. These new careers, which happen after retirement age, are called “encore careers,” and they are growing in popularity. This is because many older Americans are finding that they can work past 65, and that they want to (and in many cases need to) keep working.

Many seniors will choose to stay in their current positions for some time; others will begin an encore career in a new field, or in a job related to their current one. Many of them focus on creating a positive impact on the world., for example, is based entirely around supporting older Americans as they transition to encore careers that better the world for future generations.

You may find that there are few jobs in your field…

Finding an encore career can be challenging for several reasons. You may find that there are few jobs in your field and you need to switch to a new one, meaning that you will have less experience than other applicants. A disability or illness may make certain kinds of jobs problematic. Finally, you may have no clue where to begin!

Switching to a New Field

The most important and significant part of a resume, for many employers, is experience. As millennials will certainly tell you, it is next-to-impossible to get a job with no job experience. When convincing an employer to “take a chance” on you as a senior, emphasizing your professional experience and how it can relate to the new position will help you immensely.

Learn the job requirements and sell your skills and experience to suit that. For example, someone who worked in the healthcare industry but wants to transition into teaching would say that his or her altruism and interpersonal skills, especially with sensitive, detailed, or confidential information, make him or her a strong candidate for working with children and families in schools. Another example is a career musician who wishes to move into nonprofit work. This person would highlight the charity concerts in which they were a featured player, showing that they have already worked with nonprofits and donated their time and effort.

The needs and abilities of the aging change, though, especially when the inevitable health factors of age come into play.This must be planned for too.

Disabilities and New Careers

The concern of many employers is that disabilities in older people will impair their job performance. Disability does increase with age, according to a 2014 American Community Survey Report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Older Americans are more likely to experience a host of health issues that may affect their ability to work, including hearing difficulties, cognitive difficulties, independent living difficulties, etc.

Yet fewer aging adults have significant enough disabilities to impact their workplace opportunities, says the study—in fact, 61.3% of Americans over 65 have no disabilities at all, and another 15.9% have only one. The true difficulties come at age 85 and over, where only 27.5% of older Americans have no disabilities. Even then, however, more than one in four Americans over 85 possesses no significant health complications and can likely still work (if they would like to)!

We see, then, that many Americans who are old enough to retire—sometimes much older than 65—are ready and able to participate in the workforce. They may need changes in style—fewer hours, perhaps fewer physical demands, more structured routines, etc., compared to their youngest coworkers—but they are able to do so and thus should, if they would like. The choice is theirs, and employers would be wise to take note of their experience and willingness to work.

If an older person does have a disability, being upfront with employers may help, but it is not legally necessary for employment. Employers are required, by law (via the Americans with Disabilities Act) to accommodate “known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities.” This means that if you are hard of hearing, for example, but otherwise qualified to work in any position, the employer is required by law to accommodate that disability, such as providing you with subtitled video training or a sign language interpreter if necessary.

In short, when an older person has put in years of developing and honing skills, good judgment, and a sound work ethic, there is no reason why he or she has to retire. In fact, it may be time for an encore.


Sources (2009). A Guide to Disability Rights Laws. U.S. Department of Justice. Civil Rights Division. Disability Rights Section. Available at Retrieved 1/19/2016.

Farrell, Chris. (November 25, 2015). Will You Really Be Able to Work Into Your 70s? Next Avenue. Available at Retrieved 1/19/2016.

Feffer, Mark. (December 15, 2014). 3 Great Opportunities for Encore Careers. Next Avenue. Available at Retrieved 1/19/2016.

He, Wan & Larsen, Luke. J. (December 2014). U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Reports, ACS-29, Older Americans With a Disability: 2008–2012, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. Available at Retrieved 1/19/2016.


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