San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

After retirement, older adults head back to work

- By Matt Villano

When Tom Currier retired after 15 years of managing informatio­n technology for the Alzheimer’s Associatio­n, he was ready to take a much-needed pause in what had been a busy but fulfilling career.

His plans were simple: Read, garden, maybe travel a bit. They didn’t last long.

Within a few short months, the 68-year-old Currier was back at work, substitute teaching at a local school, connecting with children and squeezing the most out of each day. The more he thought about retirement, the more he realized he wasn’t close to a point where he could stop working. So he didn’t.

“I wondered if maybe I should just play golf every day or something like that, but instead I was always thinking of volunteer opportunit­ies or something to do,” said Currier, who lives in Sunnyvale. “That’s when it dawned on me: Teaching is the perfect retirement activity. The positive feedback you get, the feeling of accomplish­ment and giving back and the adoration of all the kids. It’s just fantastic.”

Currier certainly isn’t the only Bay Area resident over 65 to follow this path; all over the region, older people are “unretiring” to work in boutiques, tasting rooms, libraries and even becoming wedding officiants.

Local trends mimic broader trends, too. According to a recent report from Indeed, more than 2.6 percent of retired workers returned to work in October 2021, the highest since April 2020. The report included an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, which stated that in the last quarter of 2021, about 625,000 people went back to work after saying they had retired.

“I’m learning new things. I like having purpose. That was something I was missing in retirement.”

Tom Currier, about his new job at a Milpitas school

For Currier, the decision wasn’t too tough.

Yes, he enjoyed his two-hour breakfasts and long walks with the dogs. But he had the urge to give back.

He was just missing something.

“A lot of people’s sense of self-worth comes from work, and when people need you, a lot of that comes from a job,” Currier said. “When you retire, nobody really needs you anymore in the same day-to-day and hour-tohour sense.”

When Currier experience­d these feelings, he asked himself what would fulfill him. His wife mentioned substitute teaching and that seemed like the best of both worlds: He could technicall­y stay retired and work as much as he wanted to. It sounded like a perfect fit.

Then, of course, Currier got hooked. He was subbing at a school in Milpitas as many as four times a week. The kids loved him, calling him “Mr. Tom” wherever he went. After two months, the principal pulled him aside and mentioned a full-time, fill-in position was opening. Currier jumped at the chance.

“I get a lot of satisfacti­on from work,” Currier said. “I get there and people need me and I’m busy. I’m learning new things. I like having purpose. That was something I was missing in retirement.”

In Healdsburg, Linda Cook had a similar journey.

After nearly 20 years of working for Costeaux French Bakery in town, Cook retired near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — sooner than she would have if she hadn’t been furloughed.

Initially, her plan was to spend more time with her grandkids. That’s when local business people who had known her from her previous job came calling. A gentleman who owns a walking tour company knew how personable Cook was and asked her to lead tours one day a week. A woman who owns a local tea shop felt the same way and tabbed Cook to work for her one day a week.

Cook appreciate­d having something to do and realized she really didn’t want to stop working at all. That’s when it dawned on her: If she was so willing to work for other people during her “retirement,” why wouldn’t she try to start something of her own?

“Getting back to work helped me realize I wasn’t ready to retire yet,” she said. “Being around people, interactin­g with people, talking to people — it’s what I love.”

An avid historian, Cook realized that what she’d like to do most is lead historical walking tours around the downtown area of Healdsburg. So she started booking some. And the customers came. As of early March, she leads tours three days a week and works with local hotel concierges to fill the spots. She starts the tours on the historic plaza and ends them at the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society right when it opens.

Cook expects to have a formal company up and running by April 1. The name: Healdsburg Historic Walking Tours.

“I never thought I’d start my own tourism business,” she said. “Now, I guess it’s my second career.”

Not every career is a viable option for all older adults — some require too much manual labor, others require workers to be on their feet for the duration of a shift. (In Cook’s case, for instance, she’s able to walk a mile in comfortabl­e shoes on every tour.)

J. Thomas Briody, CEO and President of the Institute on Aging, said it’s important that older adults keep in mind their own physical, psychologi­cal and emotional limitation­s if they’re thinking of diving back into the workforce after retirement.

“Older adults should consider both time, activity and financial factors when unretiring,” said Briody, whose organizati­on is based in San Francisco and serves all of California.

Some of the best jobs for older adults: those with some degree of flexibilit­y. Briody suggested that tutoring and/or coaching are great second careers for someone over the age of 65, since older adults have amassed so much great knowledge during their working years. Teaching works as well, provided an individual has the energy and stamina to work on their feet all day long.

Another second career that is popular among older adults is virtual assistant. People who do this line of work can set their own hours and perform tasks from the comfort and privacy of a home office.

Briody noted older adults should consider potential financial implicatio­ns before they go back to work.

“Prior to reentering the workforce, retired individual­s should consult with their financial adviser,” he said. “There could be tax implicatio­ns and that should be considered and worked out before formally unretiring.”

 ?? LINDA COOK ?? Above: After retiring, Linda Cook is now starting her own business, Healdsburg Historic Walking Tours. Left: Tom Currier went back to work at a school in Milpitas and dressed up for a theme day.
LINDA COOK Above: After retiring, Linda Cook is now starting her own business, Healdsburg Historic Walking Tours. Left: Tom Currier went back to work at a school in Milpitas and dressed up for a theme day.

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