It’s a given that baby boomers are facing an uncertain future in terms of retirement. Thanks to the recent ups and downs in the market (with seemingly more downs), plans for retirement among baby boomers have likely changed accordingly; perhaps some are still figuring out just what that Plan B, C, or D looks like. Given this climate, some may consider the recent study in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology to be comforting news, for others, it may be just another twist of the knife.
Here’s the recap: Study authors Yujie Zhan, Mo Wang, and Songqi Liu from the University of Maryland, along with Kenneth S. Shultz from California State University, San Bernardino, used a nationally representative sample of 12,189 retirees (participants range in age from 51 to 61) from the first four waves of the Health and Retirement Study. Entitled “Bridge Employment and Retirees’ Health: A Longitudinal Investigation,” the study purports that full retirement may be bad for your physical and mental health. That’s right, folks. According to the study, seniors who continue to work in the same field in some capacity post-retirement fare better physically and mentally than those who quit cold turkey.
By definition, bridge employment is “the pattern of labor force participation exhibited by older workers as they leave their career jobs and move toward complete labor force withdrawal (Shultz, 2003). It could be a part-time job, self-employment, or temporary employment after full-time employment ends and before permanent retirement begins (Feldman, 1994).”
I have heard numerous accounts of retirees doing the bridge employment thing – retirees who pick up part-time work for financial reasons, or because they can only spend so much time with the grandchildren (wink, wink), or maybe because they just need some structure in their day. Others are interested in that third career -they’ve always wanted to drive a tour bus but never could do it as the family breadwinner.
So, for those prospective retirees who seek work in a different field, the health benefits still outweigh the risks of working longer – but your mental health will be better if you stay in the same field. As per the summary of findings, “Hierarchical regression analyses showed that compared with full retirement, engaging in bridge employment either in a career field or in a different field was associated with fewer major diseases and functional limitations, whereas engaging in career bridge employment was associated with better mental health.”
Study co-author Kenneth Shultz encourages employers to review this study and perhaps take a fresh look at the skills and experience offered by the older, wiser worker. If there are part-time jobs to fill, perhaps a retiree seeking bridge employment is a better fit than the college student juggling three jobs and 13 credits. Shultz also admonishes employers who are sweating out the labor shortage to offer bridge employment options for retirees before sending them out with a cake and a gold watch.
SFL followers, what are your thoughts about this study? What are your bridge or career bridge employment stories? Share them here!