An Aging Population Also Poses Opportunities for Retirement Careers
By Kerry Hannon, NY Times, March 7, 2014
A SCENT of sage hovers in the air. The soothing, ambient strands of New Age music fill the warm room. Carefully, the 80-year-old woman climbs aboard the heated massage table for her “rub down,” as she calls it.
She has arrived at her regular appointment with Christine Henck, 62, a licensed massage therapist who runs a small private practice out of her home in Bethesda, Md., in what was once her children’s playroom.
Almost from the day she started her business seven years ago, her clientele has skewed toward people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. She charges $70 for an hour and $100 for an hour and a half. She also makes house calls for $125 an hour.
This is her third act, after a first career in commercial property management and more than a decade working as a stay-at-home mom. It’s more a calling than a career. “I don’t see my clients as old,” Ms. Henck said. “I am in my last third of life now, too. It’s making this moment better for me. I am experiencing for myself, for the first time, what 60 to 90 is going to be like.”
Ms. Henck has stepped into an emerging field. The employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 23 percent by 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As the population ages, jobs like massage therapist and others like senior fitness trainers, dietitians and nutritionists, personal assistants, handymen, drivers and caterers who prepare meals for shut-ins are on the upswing.
By 2050, according to the Pew Research Center projections, the nation’s population of people 65 and older is expected to slightly more than double, to 86 million from 41 million. This aging population is spurring new fields and job openings for those in their 50s to 70s to care for those who are 80 and older.
“It’s no secret that retirement is a very diverse process for older Americans, with some combination of phased retirement and bridge jobs being the norm among older career workers,” according to Kevin E. Cahill, an economist with the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College.
“About 60 percent of the career workers take on a part-time job after exiting their main career,” Mr. Cahill said. “And many older Americans not only change occupations, but in large numbers they also transition from wage-and-salary employment into self-employment.”
One increasingly popular niche for those who want to be their own boss is jobs that target people who want to stay in their own homes, rather than move to an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.
According to an AARP survey, nearly 90 percent of those over age 65 want to stay in their residence for as long as possible, and 80 percent say they believe their current home is where they will always live.
As a result, a more and more jobs and businesses are being created to satisfy not just the growing number of people living healthier and longer lives, but this “aging in place” market.
Many of these jobs will require a skills boost, but not a full degree program. There’s an expanding menu of more cost- and time-effective certificate programs that could fit the bill.
That’s the approach Ms. Henck took. When her youngest child graduated from high school, Ms. Henck, a massage devotee, enrolled in a 600-hour program at the Potomac Massage Training Institute in Washington. “I hadn’t been to school in decades,” she said, “and I loved learning this work.” Ms. Henck spent about $10,000 to attend the 18-month program at the massage therapy school, which included the cost of the books and a massage table, sheets and drapes. She passed the national certifying exam and state-required licensing after graduation.
Employers and clients are progressively accepting professional certifications as proof of proficiency.
Here’s a sampling of some of jobs and fields now in demand.
HOME MODIFICATION PRO. Two years ago, Brian Dawson, 66 and an architect, started Ageless Environments, a design firm, with a partner, Laura Grad, an interior design specialist. Ms. Grad is also a National Association of Home Builders certified aging-in-place specialist.
Ms. Grad’s certification helped her prepare for starting the venture with Mr. Dawson. The certified aging-in-place specialist course is offered by the National Association of Home Builders to teach design and building techniques for making a home accessible to all ages.
The program is made up of three individual classes that cover such things as design basics, building standards, how to do a home assessment and the best methods to market services. Total fees for the combined courses are typically under $1,000.
While many of the course participants are professional builders and remodelers, interior designers, occupational therapists and even landscape designers also enroll to learn age-friendly techniques for outdoor gardens.
FINANCIAL PLANNER. Not surprisingly, as retirees fear outliving their money, jobs for personal financial advisers are expected to be one of the faster-growing occupations over the next decade, with a projected growth rate of 27 percent by 2022, according to the Labor Department.
A background in finance, accounting, business, mathematics or even law is the best groundwork for a financial planner. And there are a growing number of online courses available to ramp up expertise.
At the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies, for example, a Financial Planning Professional Certificate costs $5,650 for a nine-month online program.
The key is to offer advice to an older client on a range of issues beyond investments to help protect and preserve their assets, so they can maintain their independence, said Joseph V. Maugeri, the director of firm relations at CFP Board, a nonprofit organization that sets and enforces professional standards in personal financial planning, based in Washington.
The pay range can run from $120 to $300 an hour, or a percentage of assets under management, generally 1 percent to 3 percent.
To learn more about the training necessary, visit the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards at cfp.net.
DRIVER. There’s a growing need for drivers to transport clients who are no longer behind the wheel to appointments, airports, activities and lengthier road trips.
Pay can vary widely, depending on experience, where you live, the number of hours worked, and customer tips, but upward of $65 an hour is possible.
Of course, a safe driving record is prerequisite. And even though this is typically a referral service, a client may run a background check.
PERSONAL ASSISTANT. The list of to-dos will depend on a client’s needs. Duties can run from organizing an appointment calendar to driving someone to doctor appointments, running errands, walking the dog, shopping for groceries and preparing meals.
Hourly fees can range from $10 to $25. Some nursing or caregiving skills are useful. Emergency medical technician training might come in handy. Clients will typically request a background check or references.
TRAVEL GUIDE. When Judi Bonilla, 56, was laid off from her job as a logistics subcontractor for the military, she did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that she enjoyed working with older adults.
Since May 2012 she has been teaching people from 65 to 91 how to use public transportation and organizing half-day outings using primarily the bus and trolley in San Diego, through the nonprofit she founded, We Get Around.
“More than 600,000 people age 70-plus stop driving every year,” according to Ms. Bonilla. “The question I ask seniors is ‘how will you manage your transportation needs in the future?’ “
To get the program started, Ms. Bonilla tapped into savings and used funds from a grant, but she did not take a salary. She plans to this year.
What ties these jobs together? At a time of life when someone’s world begins to narrow, these services all offer a kind of independence—whether it’s a way for clients to stay active socially and physically, to not worry about finances, or to get relief from the aches and anxiety of aging with a human touch.
Simply put: “I saw a void and knew I had the skills to make a difference in the lives of others,” Ms. Bonilla said.