Overall, 255,000 Americans 85 years old or older were working over the past 12 months. That's 4.4 percent of Americans that age, up from 2.6 percent in 2006, before the recession. It’s the highest number on record.
A growing swath of seniors are working beyond 65, with many needing to supplement their paltry retirement savings.
As for older Americans working longer, it's partly due to what the Economist magazine calls the rise of the "yolds," or the "young-olds" — people age 65 to 75 who aren't ready to retire. A 2016 report from Stanford University shows that 17% of Americans between 70 and 74 were still working at least 10 hours weekly in 2012, up from about 12% from 2000. The reason: Workers with a higher educational attainment and higher incomes are staying in the workforce longer.
But the trend highlighted by Ghilarducci — a lack of retirement savings — isn't as hopeful. Almost one in five Baby Boomers have less than $5,000 set aside for retirement, according to the 2019 Planning & Progress Study from Northwestern Mutual. Not surprisingly, the same share of boomers say they expect to work past age of 74, the study found. The upshot: Many older Americans aren't working by choice, but rather to make ends meet.
Some parts of the U.S. have a higher proportion of seniors in the workforce, the Census found. The largest share is in Alexandria City, Virginia, where roughly 1 in 3 seniors are working, it found.