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Older Iowans

Working: one in five Iowans age 65 or older is participating in the labor force

May 7, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles on older Iowans and Americans in the workforce, created by Amy H. Peterson, who will attend Columbia Journalism School's Age Boom Academy in June and create a multimedia series over the summer.

The Iowa Data Center and the Iowa Department on Aging this week released new numbers in honor of Older Americans Month in May.

One striking number: 102,980 Iowans age 65 and older who are still working. The unemployment rate in 2016 for older Iowans was just two percent.

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With life expectancy climbing, the 20th century narrative of working 40 years for one employer then settling back for leisure at 65 is over. Aging now has two phases: the young-old, ages 65 to 84, and the elderly old, ages 85 and older.

Iowa ranks 16th in the nation for the percentage of people age 65 and older. That equates to 514,215 older Iowans, 285,825 of them women. The estimated number of women age 85 and over is 52,355, and accounts for 66.5 percent of Iowans age 85 and over.

By 2050, the projected population age 65 and older in Iowa will be 677,266, according to Woods & Poole Economics.

Emmet County is nestled in a group of north Iowa counties in which the population over age 65 is already 20 percent or more. In neighboring Dickinson County, the town of Wahpeton has the highest proportion of citizens age 65 and older with 44.6 percent. Dickinson County as a whole has 25 percent older citizens, second only to Monona County with 25.1 percent. By 2050, 73 of Iowa's 99 counties will have a population of at least one in five older citizens.

Nearly 20 percent (19.9) of Iowans age 65 and older are military veterans. Most older citizens are Iowa veterans, too, with 74.4 percent born in Iowa. Iowa is a state with sticking power, however, as the percent of all Iowans born in the state is 70.5 percent.

In addition to working longer, many older Iowans are starting over or continuing to raise children. 16,681 children under 18 are being cared for by a grandparent in Iowa.

Older Americans Month celebrates its 55th birthday. It was in 1963 at a meeting with the National Council of Senior Citizens when President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month, encouraging the nation to pay tribute in some way to older people across the country. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter's proclamation changed the name to Older American's Month, a time to celebrate those 65 and older through ceremonies, events and public recognition.



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