The number of over-70s still working has doubled – in just 10 years. What’s going on? And why does it matter?

A very significant change is happening in our society. And those still working in their 70s are at its heart.

What’s significant is how many more of them now work full or part time. And, with the numbers growing year on year, even if you have yet to hit 70 it points to what is likely to be ahead.

Why is this ‘significant’? I’ll get to that. And also what’s good and bad about it all.

But first, here come the facts.

The number of people aged 70 and over still working full or part-time has more than doubled over the past 10 years.

We know this thanks to new data from the Office for National Statistics. It highlights that 10 years ago only one in 22 of those 70 and over were working. But now it’s boomed to one in 12.

This means almost half a million of us who are, or will be, in our 70s earning a crust either full or part time.

But there’s more.

The research discovered more than 53,000 over 80s are still working in the UK, with a quarter doing so full-time. That’s something unheard of in previous generations.

Why is this happening?

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less which commissioned the research and generates work opportunities for the over-50s, was quoted in The Guardian as giving two reasons. He said, ‘Many are looking to top up their pension savings while they still can. But there is also a growing understanding of the many health and social benefits that come with working into retirement.

Both of those reasons are worth exploring because of what they reveal.

Working to top up a pension

For many it is just a nice bonus to be able to add a little income in later years. However – for too many – doing so is an absolute necessity and is about much more than topping up pension savings.

According to Catherine Seymour, head of policy at Independent Age, ‘One in every six people – nearly two million – of pension age are now living in poverty and every day, another 226 people join that number.’

Sadly, this fact may have escaped the attention of affluent suburban retirees. However, Catherine notes, ‘Many now working in their late sixties and seventies are doing so out of necessity to pay the rent, heat their homes and afford their weekly shop.’

Should that not be a wakeup call to many, including Government?

And should it also add a perspective to those like me. Those able to top up our pensions through work because we can and not due to driven necessity.

If that extra income is important to you, check out some great ‘add to my income’ ideas at our recent blog 20 Ways to Earn More Money in Your Retirement.

Working because it’s good for us

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less also speaks of ‘the many health and social benefits that come with working into retirement.’ He could not be more right.

Whatever the motivation for someone working beyond the official retirement date, there’s good news in it all. To put it simply, the longer you keep your body and brain active the longer you are likely to live.

With this in mind, work – paid or voluntary – has a major role. It’s a way to have a purpose, be socially connected, and keep the brain and body on the go. And its benefits are backed up by solid research including –

  • A study by the University of Exeter discovered helping others on a regular basis could reduce early death rates by 22 per cent.
  • Researchers at Oregon State University warn retiring early could be a risk factor for an early death – with working even one more year likely to extend life.
  • A fifteen-year study of 83,000 older adults published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, suggested those working past 65 were about three times more likely to say they enjoyed good health and about half as likely to have serious health problems, such as cancer or heart disease.

For more on how keeping active contributes to the quality of life, see our blog The 6 keys to a longer and healthier life.

If you are interested in finding ways to keep working – either paid or as a volunteer – see the AfterWorkNet webpage on Opportunities.

There’s also help through the Rest Less initiative – the research sponsors. This helps retired people find a part time role and those over 50 change career.

They also list thousands of jobs from age-friendly employers including –

Metro Bank, looking for those with flexible hours to deliver their commitment to 7 days a week walk-in banking.

After-school nannies, an initiative of Koru Kids making it easier and more affordable for families to enjoy high quality childcare.

Now Teach, which creates a route for those with decades of experience to become teachers.

Financial Coaching, provided by Hatch and helping people manage their money more effectively.

A final warning

Beneath these new statistics on the multitude now working longer lurks is a very significant fact. It’s that men are twice as likely as women to be working in these later years.

Although the research doesn’t spell out why, it seems reasonable to make a simple and concerning assumption as to what’s going on.

The men are enjoying the benefits of ‘significance’ and ‘companionship’ that the workplace brings. Meanwhile, the women are most likely experiencing the very opposite – with their time taken up isolated and pressured delivering child care to their grandchildren.

We should not escape the stark difference that may be involved and the implications this has for the need to cherish the women involved.

What is your experience of working – full or part time, paid or voluntary – beyond the normal retirement date? Please share it here or with our Facebook Group.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.


  1. What would be REALLY interesting is the number of us working beyond our 70’s, whether employed or not! I would be really surprised if that wasn’t almost all of us! Alleluia!! In our family, by the grace of GOD, after being homeless 3 times during our 40 years of marriage, my wife and I have “retired” 3 times already, and we are only just 70-ish. Our cup isn’t half empty; neither is it half-full; our cup overflows!!! Alleluia! Glory to God!!

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife