Women in their 80s “want to work” due to longer lifespan
Customized women’s policies needed based on different stages of life cycle
“I am enjoying my work. After I started working, I became healthier. I am grateful for being able to wake up in the morning and go somewhere to work. I earn money and listen to music; it sure is worthwhile. My friends envy me, and they would like to work as well.”
Located at Nagwon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, “Adding Memories” is a senior-friendly café that opened this September. Chang Sunja who does serving here is seventy years old this year. Despite her old age and the fact that three times a week she has to spend more than an hour in the subway just to come to Jongno from her home in Incheon, work is fun for her. Her co-workers are three to four years older than her, but they do not show any sign of difficulty and are merely busy welcoming guests. 72 to 73-year-old women are in charge of the kitchen and serving. This café, along with a silver cinema, an exclusive space for senior citizens who have no place to enjoy their leisure, is a cultural space as well as a job opportunity for senior citizens.
Growing number of elderly women desire to take part in the society. Many want to work for financial reasons as the poverty rate for the elderly is high, but those without any financial difficulties also search for jobs. It’s not just jobs, but vocational education, lectures on designing post-retirement life, and lifelong study are also very popular. Experts say that more of the elderly will want to take part in the society as the baby-boomers, who have high levels of education as well as great cultural desires, start aging. As a result, policies for elderly women are picking up interest.
Due to rapid aging of the population, there are new perspectives to old age such as active old age, productive old age, new old age, and so on. However, support for policies that fulfill all their needs such as job positions, education, leisure is insufficient. Especially since elderly women’s conditions such as career discontinuity, nurturing grandchildren, and taking care of household affairs greatly differ from male counterparts, tailored policies are needed to fully support their employment and education; however, it is hard to find gender perspective in the current senior policies, which are focused mainly on health and pension.
Senior researcher Park Sung Jung of Korean Women’s Development Institute conducted a research from July to September on work, education, and leisure-related demands with 3809 adults who are at least 55 years old. Results indicated that 76.1% of women in their early days of old age, which includes women from 55 to 64 years old, wanted to find a job, and 50% wanted to participate in lifelong education or education on designing post-retirement life. Yet many women during this period faced obstacles such as household affairs, taking care of family, and etc., which didn’t allow them to work. Many women in their mid old age, which includes women from 65 to 74 years old, were engaged in day labor, sales work, or simple labor; however, still almost half (47.1%) of the women hoped to be employed. As for women in their late old age, which include women who are 75 or above, although only 20% hoped to be employed due to less education compared to women in later generations, old age, and health issues, even their search for jobs didn’t stop until they were 82.2 years old (in average).
Shin Insoon, Team Leader at Goyang Integrated Employment Support Center run by Korean Senior Citizens Association, said “With a longer life expectancy, more senior citizens want to work as long as their strength allows it due to anxiety about their future.” Shin also pointed out that “There are many elderly women who would like to work, but the types of work are limited to cleaning and packaging positions. For those who hope to be employed not to make ends meet, but in order to form a network or for the sake of working itself, various types of jobs must be created.”
“Contrary to varying desires of the senior citizens, welfare policies are very monolithic.” Said, Kim Eunjoo, President of Silver Cinema and also the manager of café “Adding Memories.” “It’s time that we turn our eyes to not only the vulnerable but also the different desires of the elderly.”
“Work, learning, and leisure must strike a balance for a lively old age, but the Korean society only emphasizes learning during the adolescent period and only work during the young adult and middle age period; hence, we the culture indifferent to leisure continues to old age,” said Research Fellow Park Sung Jung. “We must learn how to enjoy our leisure time. We need to integrate and blend relevant policies so that re-training and learning can be connected to work and leisure in the old age, and leisure activities can be diverted into work.”