Boomers, Older Americans Want Jobs – Now and in Retirement – That Improve Quality of Life in Their Communities, New Survey Shows

MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Survey of 1,000 People Age 50 to 70 Breaks New Ground by Assessing Priorities for Next Stage of Work
News Release - For Immediate Release -
For more information, contact:
Sean Crowley, 202-478-6128

Washington, DC – Half of Americans age 50 to 70 want jobs that contribute to the greater good now and in retirement, according to the MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures New Face of Work Survey released today.

In recent years, the vast majority of baby boomers have told pollsters that, unlike their parents, they plan to work in retirement, they need continued income, and they want greater flexibility in retirement jobs. The survey of 1,000 Americans – conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International – is the first to ask those in their 50s (baby boomers) and 60s (pre-boomers) what type of work they aspire to, what they want to accomplish through this work, and why they want to do it.

Given the critical labor shortages facing education, health care, and social services, the fact that so many people are interested in good work "offers heartening evidence of a potential win-win opportunity of staggering proportions. We could be looking at a huge experience dividend," said Marc Freedman, president of Civic Ventures, a nonprofit think tank and incubator that works to make the aging of America an asset.

"Never before have so many Americans had so much experience and – given longer, healthier lifespans – so much time to use it," said Sibyl Jacobson, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. "We have a chance to make the most of a huge human resource windfall by capturing years of investment in human and social capital."

Survey results show that boomers and pre-boomers:

Want to do work that helps others, now and in retirement.

  • Two out of the three types of work mentioned most often were jobs in education and social services. The third was retail.
  • Baby boomers, often maligned as self-centered, are ahead of the curve: 58 percent of those age 50 to 59 are interested in these "good work" jobs, with 21 percent saying that they�re very interested.

Want careers that are about people, purpose, and community.

  • 59 percent say staying involved with other people is very important in attracting them to a job in retirement.
  • 57 percent say it's very important that the job give them a sense of purpose.

Have divergent attitudes about post-retirement work based on gender and race.

  • More women in their 50s than men (50% to 28%) say the opportunity to help people in need is a very important characteristic for a post-retirement job.
  • 70 percent of women in their 50s say it is very important that a job in retirement provide a sense of purpose, compared to 48 percent of men in their 50s.
  • African Americans are more interested in finding "good work" (63%) than whites (47%).

Don't think it will be very easy to find second careers doing good work and strongly support public policy changes to remove obstacles.

  • Only 12% of Americans age 50 to 70 think it will be very easy to find good work.
  • 60 percent strongly support giving a tax credit to older Americans who work in schools or social services.
  • 48 percent strongly support increasing funding for Americans who go back to school or who get training to prepare for work in schools or social services.
  • 46 percent strongly support a grant or tax credit for Americans over age 50 who spend a year in training for community service or actually working in a job in public or community service.

"Baby boomers will invent not only a new stage of life between the middle years and true old age," Freedman said, "but a new stage of work. Boomers may give back as volunteers, but this survey suggests that their most important contributions to society will likely be through work."

While those surveyed show strong interest in getting a better balance between work and life, "shining through is a vision for work that suggests people believe some of their most important contributions may well lie ahead," Freedman said. "Their disposition is a powerful signal that we need to be much better at opening up opportunities in the realm of good work – including education, health care, and the social sector – if we are to fully capture the potential contributions of this experience-rich generation."

The release of the MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures New Face of Work Survey coincides with the release of The Boomers: Guide to Good Work, an online pamphlet designed to help boomers find public service jobs – whether full or part time – in the second half of life. The guide was written by Ellen Freudenheim, author of Looking Forward: An Optimist's Guide to Retirement (Stewart, Tabori and Chang 2004). The survey and guide are projects of Civic Ventures, funded by MetLife Foundation.

The MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures New Face of Work Survey is available at

The Boomer's Guide to Good Work is available free online at


Civic Ventures is a think tank and incubator, generating ideas and inventing programs to help society achieve the greatest return on experience.

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife to carry on its longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. In the area of aging, the Foundation funds programs that promote healthy aging and address issues of caregiving, intergenerational activities, mental fitness, and volunteerism.