Posted on 07 February 2013
By Mark Miller
Susan Damour flunked retirement. She tried it at age 64 in 2008 along with her husband, Tim, who was 68. That lasted a year.
Overseas travel, cooking and knitting baby sweaters for the grandchildren weren’t enough to satisfy her. Tim, a retired attorney, was happy, but she hated it.
“I’m an extrovert,” Damour says. “I draw my strength from being around people, and I crave being in a problem-solving environment. Retirement was like being put in a prison.”
Fortunately for her, the Obama administration approached her soon after the 2008 election, inviting her to rejoin the General Services Administration, which manages buildings and procurement for the government. She had served as regional administrator for the GSA’s six-state Rocky Mountain region during the Clinton years, and she returned to the same position near the end of 2009.
Now 69, Damour loves her job, which gets her out of her Denver office frequently and focuses this time around on spurring environmental initiatives in government buildings, something she cares deeply about.
Damour’s experience illustrates one of the most surprising recent U.S. economic trends: the increasing presence of women working well beyond traditional retirement age, into their late sixties, seventies and beyond. This will be the fastest-growing workforce segment in the next five years, according to the Department of Labor.
Rising longevity and the aging baby boom partially explain the trend. But Elizabeth Fideler thinks something else is at play. The author of Women Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job has studied the cohort, and she believes they are making up for slow career starts. Learn more at Reuters Money.