As she neared 65, Framingham resident Elizabeth Fideler “found myself very reluctantly retired,” she said. Fulfilling both her desire to keep working and chronicling the same choice made by other women her age, Fideler researched and produced an in depth study, Women Still At Work: Professionals Over 60 and On the Job.
The book investigates what other older women do as they enter retirement age, profiling 34 older women, she said.
Women over 65 make up the fastest growing contingent of the labor force she said, adding that this is not just a result of increased numbers of older women from the baby boom generation or the increased longevity of life.
“Neither of those factors completely explains this phenomenon,” Fideler said. Women are making a choice to continue working, she said, and she wanted to know why.
The book is arranged around themes that ask questions about these women: who are they, what are they doing, where are they working and why.
Fideler interviewed each of her subjects, from 25 states and one who works in Senegal.
Fideler discovered many of these women are influenced by the second wave feminism that marked their youth. They are independent minded and “worked very hard to get where they are,” at a time when there were much fewer career options for women.
Many reinvented their careers several times throughout their professional lives, Fideler said, adding that it is “a point of pride” to remain in the workplace for these women.
By 2016, the number of worker over 65 will increase by more than 75 percent, Fideler said, adding that when she learned this statistic, she wanted to give a face to the numbers. “I celebrate that,” she said.
Fideler put out a survey that eventually went viral across the nation, she said, receiving more than 155 responses from older women who work for pay. These are women who are “determined to keep going,” she said, many from the healthcare, education, business and social service professions.
Confidence in the timeliness and interest in the subject, Fideler said she “wasn’t going to get discouraged” at any stage of the project. The timing is right, she said, for this generation and for women who will enter retirement age in the next 10 years and look to their elders for guidance.
Fideler profiled several local women, including Betty Funk, Jaye Moore and Ann Arvadon.
The book is published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers incorporated.
Fideler is chair of the Board of Library Trustees and she is in the planning stages of her next project which will survey and investigate the same age group of men in the workforce.