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September 16, 2012

Older Americans staying in the fight for jobs

Numbers of those 65 and older working or looking for jobs highest in half a century.


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That affects business at restaurants, furniture stores and electronics outlets. And it puts a squeeze on many local governments that rely on retail sales taxes for their revenue.

"As we get older, we require more services but buy less stuff," said Bob Murphy, the mayor of Lakewood, Colo., a community west of Denver with a growing elderly population. "We need to stabilize and sustain a revenue stream in a system (that's built on) where people buy things."

By age group, the nation's biggest spenders are those 35 to 44 and 45 to 54, government statistics show. On average, households with people of these ages spend about twice as much as those headed by older Americans for things such as eating out and entertainment, and they spend roughly 50 percent more for housing and transportation.

Seniors, of course, still make up a relatively small share of the total workers in America. But senior employment has jumped 27 percent in the past five years, surpassing 7 million in July, while adults ages 35 to 54 with jobs has fallen 8 percent during the same period.

In four months, Linda Madden will retire from her full-time administrative job at Colorado College, freeing her up to take long hikes in the southern Rockies and visit her three adult children and families scattered across the country.

But the 66-year-old has no plans to stop working. In fact, Madden already has a part-time job lined up, as a teaching director at a church-run school in Colorado Springs. "I need the income," she said.

Separated from her husband for about 15 years, Madden lives in a small bungalow in downtown Colorado Springs. Apart from expenses for yoga classes and her hiking club, she rarely buys things.

Madden has an ordinary cellphone, not a smartphone. She's had the same television set for 15 years. Her desktop computer, nearing 11 years old, is well past the typical life span. "It still works fine," she said.

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