Active Seniors Challenge Aging Myths

Minnesota's Elderly Staying Fit and in Workforce Longer

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Researcher Jan Hively

Jan Hively of the University of Minnesota's Vital Aging Network started researching elderly workforce trends when she was 70. She says Minnesota's elderly workforce trends reflect what's happening nationwide. Annie Baxter for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Annie Baxter for NPR
Seniors in St. Cloud, Minn., take a computer class.

Seniors in St. Cloud, Minn., take a computer class. Some are brushing up on their skills in order to return to the workforce. Annie Baxter for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Annie Baxter for NPR

Minnesota's fastest-growing population consists of people 65 and older. Those demographics preview much of the nation's population as baby boomers age, and others live longer than ever before.

As Annie Baxter of Minnesota Public Radio reports, many of Minnesota's elderly are ditching retirement and heading back to work in large numbers, breaking some myths along the way.

A couple of years ago, University of Minnesota researcher Jan Hively and her colleagues surveyed 200 seniors ages 55-84 living in rural areas of the state. Hively, herself in her 70s, says she had her own fixed ideas about growing old: "The image was that you went on to the front porch to the rocking chair."

The study's results exploded that image. About 40 percent of seniors interviewed said they worked after retirement age. About half said they needed the money, but the other half worked because they wanted to — and planned to do so until physically unable. Many others said they stayed busy through volunteerism. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed also described themselves as active and healthy, well into their 80s.

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