Seniors Are Keeping These Dying Industries Alive

Seniors Are Keeping These Dying Industries Alive

In the nation's largest cities, often more than one in six seniors are working well past the retirement age of 65. ValuePenguin investigated this trend to understand which industries seniors are keeping alive, where they are working and why they may be delaying retirement.
senior shoe repairman
senior shoe repairman Source: Getty Images

More seniors than ever are remaining employed well after hitting retirement age. Especially for those over 75, the labor force participation rate has nearly doubled over the last 20 years. Occupations requiring very specific trade skills, such as embalmers and leather repairmen, employ the largest percentage of seniors. One wonders whether the industries themselves will fail to exist in their current form after they retire.

Key Findings:

  • The labor force participation rate for the 65-74 age group alone has increased by nine percentage points, from 18% to 27%, in the past 20 years. For the 75+ group, the labor force participation rate nearly doubled over the same time period.
  • Trade professions like repairmen, religious organizations and animal production rely heavily on working seniors — 20% of their workforce is 65+.
  • Men are much more likely than women to work into traditional retirement years. In 2018, nearly 32% of men between the ages of 65 and 74 were in the labor force. Yet only 23% of women of the same age were employed.
  • Among the 100 largest cities, Washington D.C. had the highest proportion of working seniors. Roughly 25% of residents age 65+ here remain employed.

Which occupations are seniors keeping alive?

Next time you are in need of a shoe or bag repair, remember that nearly one-third of footwear and leather goods repair workers are older than 65. Once these individuals decide to retire, the leather repair industry will likely feel the impact.

Another important occupation, which will always be in demand but may suffer from an aging workforce, is funeral home directors. Seniors currently make up 28% of this industry, but some specializations are even greater; like how 47% of those trained as embalmers and funeral attendants are past retirement age.

Percent of seniors working
1Footwear and leather goods repair28.6%
2Funeral homes, and cemeteries and crematories27.9%
3Animal production and aquaculture19.8%
4Gift, novelty, and souvenir shops18.6%
5Religious organizations17.8%
6Personal and household goods repair and maintenance16.7%
7Used merchandise stores16.6%
8Crop production16.3%
9Retail florists16.0%
10Barber shops14.6%

Is there geographical significance to where seniors continue to work?

All located along the east coast, Washington, D.C., Bridgeport and Boston ranked as the top three cities with nearly a quarter of all seniors still working.

Texas seniors were also found to stay in the workforce well after retirement age, with Austin, Dallas and Houston all ranking within the top 15 cities with the highest percentage of working seniors.

Where are the most seniors staying in the workforce?

Metro area
Percent of seniors working
65+ HHI
Annual 65+ housing cost
Bachelor's degree or higher 65+
Washington D.C.24.9%$97,902$21,97241.5%
Bridgeport, Connecticut24.3%$57,488$22,66814.5%
Boston, Massachusetts22.7%$102,621$23,47228.8%
Omaha, Nebraska22.3%$52,080$15,37229.5%
Austin, Texas21.1%$66,494$19,57242.9%
Dallas, Texas21.1%$70,729$15,88832.5%
Salt Lake City, Utah21.1%$70,483$15,97242.2%
Denver, Colorado20.7%$59,601$17,30438.6%
Houston, Texas20.4%$67,766$15,67230.7%
San Francisco, California20.0%$83,216$30,32436.1%
Baltimore, Maryland19.9%$59,132$14,55621.0%
Honolulu, Hawaii19.8%$78,984$26,34028.9%
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Washington, D.C. ranks #1 for working seniors

One-quarter of Washington, D.C.’s seniors are still employed. The fact that 39% of legislatures are over the age of 65 may help explain why the U.S. capitol holds this high ranking. The only professions with more working seniors are the aforementioned embalmers and funeral attendants, as well as textile knitting and weaving machine operators.

Areas with the fewest working seniors

It should come as little surprise that traditionally well-known retirement communities have low populations of senior workers. Places like Augusta, Georgia; Palm Bay, Florida; and Deltona, Florida ranked lowest in ValuePenguin’s analysis, with as few as 12% of those residents 65+ employed.

Metro area
Percent of seniors working
Augusta, Georgia11.8%
Palm Bay, Florida12.4%
Deltona, Florida12.5%
Bakersfield, California12.9%
McAllen, Texas13.0%

Why do seniors delay retirement?

  • With the increase in cost of living, seniors may be forced to work for longer in order to save enough for a comfortable retirement. It is estimated that retirees are able to live comfortably on 75 to 80% of their former salaries.
  • Higher health costs are also a concern, especially for those over 65. Seniors will spend three times as much as a 21-year-old for health insurance alone, and that does not take into account medical bills or the costs associated with utilizing such care. Working also keeps the mind sharp and gives people a reason to get out of bed everyday — increasing physical and mental mobility.
  • In the top 15 cities with high populations of working seniors, the average senior household income was $66,661. If those 65+ carry average housing costs of $19,142, they are contributing 28.7% of their income to housing alone.
  • Standard bills may increase simply because of age. Between the ages of 30 and 65, auto insurance rates actually decline and are determined by driving record. However, once a driver reaches 65, they can expect to see their premiums creep back up.


Data was analyzed from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 Current Population Survey in conjunction with U.S. Census Bureau 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (Population 65 years and over in the United States).

ValuePenguin divided the number of workers aged 65 or over in an industry or occupation by the total number of workers in that industry or occupation. Researchers conducted the analysis on the most specific industries and occupations for which data is available. To determine the places with the largest share of working seniors, researchers examined the number of employed people aged 65 or over by the total population aged 65 or over, across the 100 largest cities.