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Older Workers Say They're Satisfied With Their Jobs

By Matt Sedensky

EDITOR'S NOTE: Aging America is a joint AP-APME project examining the aging of the baby boomers and the impact that this so-called silver tsunami has had on society.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Not happy with your job? Just wait.

A study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 9 in 10 workers who are age 50 or older say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job. Older workers reported satisfaction regardless of gender, race, educational level, political ideology and income level.

Consider Oscar Martinez.

If Disneyland (DIS) truly is the happiest place on earth, Martinez may be one of its happiest workers.

Never mind that at 77, the chef already has done a lifetime of work. Or that he must rise around 3 a.m. each day to catch a city bus in time for breakfast crowds at Carnation Cafe, one of the park's restaurants. With 57 years under his apron, he is Disneyland's longest-serving employee.

"To me, when I work, I'm happy," said Martinez, who's not sure he ever wants to retire.

Though research has shown people across age groups are more likely to report job satisfaction than dissatisfaction, older workers consistently have expressed more happiness with their work than younger people have.

The AP-NORC survey found significant minorities of people reporting unwelcome comments at work about their age, being passed over for raises and promotions, and other negative incidents related to being older. But it was far more common to note the positive impact of their age.

Six in 10 said colleagues turned to them for advice more often and more than 4 in 10 said they felt they were receiving more respect at work.

Older workers generally have already climbed the career ladder, increased their salaries and reached positions where they have greater security, so more satisfaction makes sense, says Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey, one of the most comprehensive polls of American attitudes.

"It increases with age," said Smith, whose biannual survey is conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. "The older you are, the more of all these job-related benefits you're going to have."

Looking at the 40-year history of the GSS, the share of people saying they are very or moderately satisfied with their jobs rises steadily with each ascending age group, from just above 80% for those under 30 to about 92% for those 65 and older.

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