In this photo taken Sept. 20, 2013, Oscar Martinez, 77, greets diners at the Carnation Cafe at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt Sedensky)
But as in the AP-NORC survey, the age gap grows among those who derive the greatest satisfaction from their work, as 38 percent of young adults express deep satisfaction compared with 63 percent age 65 and up.
Smith says earlier in life, people are uncertain what career path they want to take and may be stuck in jobs they despise. Though some older workers stay on the job out of economic necessity, many others keep working because they can’t imagine quitting and genuinely like their jobs.
Eileen Sievert of Minneapolis can relate.
The French literature professor at the University of Minnesota used to think she’d be retired by 65. But she’s 70 now and grown to love her work so much, it became hard to imagine leaving. She’s instead just scaled back her hours through a phased-retirement program.
“I just like the job,” she said. “And you don’t want to leave, but you don’t want to stay too long.”
Walter Whitmore, 58, of Silver Springs, Ark., feels the same. He says he has plenty of things to occupy him outside of his account representative job at a grocery distributor, but having a reason to get out of the house each day brings a certain level of fulfillment. He sees working as keeping him vibrant.
“It wasn’t a goal to live to do nothing. You live to accomplish things,” he said. “You have to maintain that functionality or you turn into Jell-O.”
Robert Schuffler, 96, still reports for work most days at the fish market he opened in Chicago decades ago. He has turned over ownership to a longtime employee, but he can’t imagine not seeing the customers he has known so long, and who still show up with a warm smile, a kiss for Shuffler and a shopping list. His job does more than just keep him feeling young: It keeps him happy.
“It’s like some guy would make a million dollars today,” he said. “He’s very happy with the day. I’m very happy being here.”
Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
AP-NORC Center: http://ww.apnorc.org
Matt Sedensky, an AP writer on leave, is studying aging and workforce issues as part of a one-year fellowship at the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which joins NORC’s independent research and AP journalism. The fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and supported by APME, an association of AP member newspapers and broadcast stations.
Follow Matt Sedensky on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sedensky
EDITOR’S NOTE _ Aging America is a joint AP-APME project examining the aging of the baby boomers and the impact that this so-called silver tsunami has had on society