Study finds more people are working longer; local officials see the same trend

More people have been putting their retirement plans on hold in the past few years.

A new study from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics found a 3 percent increase in the last eight years of people 65 and older who still go to work every week.

Workforce Connections in La Crosse continues to see more people older than 55 in need of work.

“These programs that have been developed to help these older job seekers are much needed,” said Erika Deal, career planner for Workforce Connections.

Financial reasons play a huge part.

“Sometimes their Social Security doesn’t stretch as far as what they were planning on,” Deal said. “Retirement and pension are not covering the increase in health care costs. Even the basic cost of living is going up.”

Al Skroska has worked as a door attendant at Mayo Health System for the past decade.

“I like to contribute,” Skroska said.

He started in the company’s food service and decided to stay with Mayo.

“The health care that Mayo helps me pay for through their benefit program is almost worth as much to me as my check,” Skroska said.

Dr. Erik Gundersen is going on 54 years at Gundersen Health System.

“It’s been my life. It really has,” Gundersen said.

At 87 years young, the retired children’s surgeon has been with the Gundersen Medical Foundation since 2000.

“From the beginning, the foundation has been responsible for all of the education that we do and the research we do,” Gundersen said.

He said he wants to continue what his family started.

“I had a natural path because my name is on the door,” Gundersen said. “Why wouldn’t I continue to do what I could for this place?”

He said a lot of people in their later years simply want something to do.

“They still want to work or do something so they look around for a second job or they look around for volunteer work,” Gundersen said.

Skroska said he wants to keep earning things in his life.

“There’s takers and makers and I’d much rather be a maker than a taker as long as I can,” Skroska said.

Organizations such as Workforce Connections help those people become successful in the job market.

“The people that I work with typically have a very good work ethic,” Deal said. “(We help with the) technology piece of it and getting them well-versed in basic computer skills is something that’s very important.”

Whether it’s finances or a long-lasting passion, workers who are normally thought of as retirees are sticking with a job as long as they can.

“I enjoyed every part of it and I would do it again tomorrow if I wasn’t as old as I am,” Gundersen said.

Skroska said he will work as long as he’s healthy.

He’ll quit “when my knees quit,” Skroska said.

Workforce Connections has a program called the foster grandparents program that gets older workers into schools to help tutor students as another option for income.