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The silver-collar economy

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High demand for skilled professionals like nurses makes health care one of the key industries trying to hang onto older workers. Scripps is a leader in this trend. Its retirement rate for employees who hit 65 is half the national average.

One of those "silver collar" workers is Barbara Genzler, a registered nurse who manages the surgery department. She's 67 and has no plans to retire. With 43 years of nursing experience behind her, most of it at Scripps, Ms. Genzler says she loves the work. "That's why I'm still doing it," she says. Even though the job is physically demanding, Genzler says she doesn't tire easily and plans to work at the hospital until she's unable to physically. "I can easily see spending my 70s working here," she says. "There's a lot of longevity in our department."

In recent years, the AARP "Best Employers" list has also included manufacturing companies like John Deere, financial firms, universities, and a range of other employers. In more than a few cases, these firms report that half or more of their workers are over 50.

To some degree, older workers are found in virtually every occupation. A graying grocery bagger or orange-aproned Home Depot associate has become a common sight. But think about this: Among Americans over 65 there are 101,000 active farmers and ranchers, a similar number who drive buses or taxis, 25,000 musicians, 17,000 crossing guards, and more than 80,000 chief executives. Warren Buffett, you are not alone.

Many work as professionals, such as lawyers. But many more occupy low-paid positions, laboring as retail clerks or janitors (more than 100,000 in each of those fields, says the Urban Institute, citing US Census data).

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