Older people are keeping on working — by choice

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Lynn Kaplanian Buller is co-owner of the family-run The American Book Center (ABC), which has branches in Amsterdam, The Hague and Leidschendam.

At age 74, she still works daily, if not full time.

“It’s fun,” says Kaplanian Buller. “It’s the beating heart of the family, and I really like the challenge of working with other people and customers, the creative process and making things happen.”

She is one of some 223,000 people in the Netherlands who is still working in 2023 despite reaching the post-retirement age of 67. That figure, according to statistics bureau CBS, has doubled over the past 10 years from 105,000 working seniors in 2013. And, according to news outlet NU.nl, the decision to work is mostly by choice.

“As long as it’s fun, challenging and creative, I’ll probably still be there,” says Kaplanian Buller.

Labour market professor Bastiaan Starink from Tilburg University, told NU.nl that the main reason people work longer is because they enjoy it. “The social contacts and young people keep you young,” he says.

He also points out that for the elderly, working can provide a welcome financial boost to a limited pension, and that older employers are often more motivated because they work because they want to, not because they have to.

“People gradually reduce their work, instead of working full-time all their lives and then stopping,” says Starink. Most people who continue to work have part-time jobs or work as freelancers.

Kaplanian Buller agrees. “It’s a gradual process,” she says of slowing down on the work front. “I don’t have to do everything now. I train back-ups. But every time I train someone, something comes up or a new project comes along.”

Older workers bring their vast experience to the workplace. Employers also don’t have to give these employees transition payments if their contract ends, and they don’t have to pay unemployment and other premiums for them.

In a tight labour market, says Starink, “every little bit helps.”

But for the working pensioner, the benefits are often more than just financial.

“It keeps me young and vital,” says Kaplanian Buller. “Why would I stop?”

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