More older workers staying on the jobby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
New Census data show the Twin Cities workforce has a high percent of older workers. The numbers show more than a quarter of the region's workforce is between 65 and 72. That puts the Twin Cities in the top five among large metro areas. The reasons are not unexpected. A number of older workers can't afford to quit and others don't want to.
St. Paul, Minn. — At age 83, Tan Hue Wu shelves books full time at a public library in suburban Woodbury.
"They do not pay me that much," he says, "but they do not require that much efficiency from me either."
And, Mr. Wu adds, he loves being around books.
"I consider that a great fringe benefit."
Wu was 48 when he came to this country from China. He worked in finance and higher education, but his Social Security check is not large enough to allow him to retire without working.
Same with Necia Holerud.
She's had several jobs but needs to help pay hers and a family member's medical bills. So at age 76, and disabled with arthritis, she works as a clerk for the St. Paul Public Library.
"This gets me out of the house, off the couch and I can do something," Holerud says.
Financial need and the desire to stay active, it turns out, are major reasons many older Twin Cities residents are still on the job.
Just talk to Maggie Catambay, who is a full-time information technology specialist at age 67.
"I really enjoy my job, and then I need the money," she says.
Even people with enough money, like Mary Schrankler, found that when she finished her job as a public school principal, retirement didn't work.
"It's not enough intellectual stimulation," Schrankler says. "I need to lead a purposeful life."
So, she and her husband bought into a franchise business, ran it, sold it recently, and at age 75 is on to other endeavors.
Kirsten Halen, 42, dreads the thought of retirement--not so much her own as her employees'.
Halen recruits and hires pharmacists for Snyders drug stores.
Demand for pharmacists is very high. Halen says she has even hired people in their mid-80s to work part time.
Halen says there are a number of pharmacists in their 70s working full time for Snyders with no retirement in sight.
"They aren't talking about retirement, [for] which I'm glad," Halen says. "They're not because there is such a huge demand that whenever somebody quits we just cringe because it is so, so difficult to replace them."
Halen says her work experience with several health care companies indicates attitudes toward older workers have changed dramatically.
"(I) think if they are an older worker, they are not being pushed out like they used to be," she says.
All of this is old news to 60-year-old state demographer Tom Gillaspy.
Gillaspy says a growing number of companies are trying to conserve their ranks of older workers.
"They are about to lose some critically important skills and it's going to be hard to replace those skills.
One reason, Gillaspy says, is the Baby Boom generation is being followed by a much smaller cohort that he calls the "Birth Dearth" generation.
Families in the 1960s and '70s were smaller. So, the number of Minnesotans in the prime work years of ages 30 to 44 has dropped sharply.
The number has declined by nearly 100,000, or 8 percent, compared to the Census count six years ago.
Gillaspy says maintaining a prosperous state economy hinges on finding enough people to fill jobs.
The choices he says are fairly clear. Minnesota must attract workers from other states and other countries.
In the longer term, Gillaspy says, ensuring the state's continued prosperity will also require that Minnesota address the large number of children of color whose school graduation rates are far below their white counterparts.
- Morning Edition, 09/12/2007, 7:25 a.m.