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Americans are retiring four years later on average than they did three decades ago, and active workers increasingly are pushing their retirement plans further out. If current conditions prevail, the age of those leaving the workforce will continue to climb, according to an analysis of 2022 Gallup data.

In 2022, workers reported retiring at an average age of 61, compared with age 57 in 1991, according to a Gallup report on its annual Economy and Personal Finance survey. What’s more, those who remain employed now plan to retire at age 66, compared with age 60 in 1995.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans of traditional retirement age appears to be falling. Significantly fewer people reported that they retired between the ages of 55 and 74 than did those in the same age range at the beginning of the 21st century, Jeffrey M. Jones, PhD., of Gallup reported.

Contributing factors 

The survey did not collect data that could explain how income is affecting these trends, such as whether they are occurring more among lower-income or upper-income workers. But changes to Social Security payouts from the 1980s are incentivizing longer employment as older adults seek to boost their post-retirement monthly benefits, Jones noted.

Other factors contributing to rising retirement age may include a wish to save for a longer retirement as lifespans increase. In addition, the economic shift away from manufacturing to service and information delivery has facilitated working to an older age, Jones reported.

Defining retirement

Whether due to these or other factors, the line that marks retirement may no longer be as clear as it was, according to a study from Age Wave and Edward Jones, published in May. Only 34% of participants in that study defined retirement as stopping full-time work. And only 10% defined it as reaching a certain age, McKnight’s Senior Living has reported

When it comes to retirement plans, 59% of those in the May study said they want to work in some way; 22% want part-time work, 19% said they hope to cycle between work and leisure, and 18% want to work full time.

Those trends could present opportunities for senior living operators who are willing to find creative ways to attract a new crop of residents, such as adding workspaces to living spaces. This route may be especially true for those in the sector who serve a relatively younger population, such as independent living communities and continuing care retirement communities. 

The senior living sector currently is poised for post-pandemic recovery, with an uptick in move-ins that may be related to an increased yearning for socialization after two years of isolation, analysts say.