Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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For Many Seniors, Finding Purpose in Retirement Means Going Back to Work


Submitted by Lutheran Hillside Village

 In his basement workshop, Ken Hinkle, 78, taps on the screen of his computer monitor. It is displaying his eBay home page. His finger lands next to his seller rating: 100 percent positive after 3,000 transactions.

“Not bad for an old guy,” he says with a laugh.

A retired draftsman, Ken repairs and sells old film cameras — mostly Canon rangefinders. “I started selling on eBay in 2001,” he says. “I owned an old camera and I listed it, but I had no idea what the value of the camera was.”

When it sold for $519, Ken’s eyebrows went up. “I started buying more cameras for $30 to $60 a piece. I’d clean and service them, repair broken parts, and relist them for $125 to $225.” Some cameras he found he could sell for as high as $400.

Today, Ken is clearing five figures a year doing something he loves to do anyway — tinkering on machines in his workshop. “I felt like I needed something to do,” he says. “I’m my own boss, and I can work whenever I want. It just doesn’t get much better than that!”

Ken is hardly alone in feeling that way; tens of thousands of older adults are turning to self-employment, either after retirement or just before leaving the workforce. Recently the Health and Retirement Study announced findings that one in 10 aging workers go into business for themselves before leaving the business world completely.

Their motivations vary. Some do it to maintain a sense of purpose. Some do it to supplement their income. And some are like Ken: they do it because it’s something they love to do.

Many people spend most of their lives pining for the day they get the proverbial gold watch. But for others, leaving the workforce can be bewildering. After 40 to 50 years of contributing to a field, it can be hard to just stop working. Some retirees can perceive this change as a loss of purpose or identity, and for them, finding happiness in retirement means finding new purposes and new identities.

If someone you love is in this boat, there are all kinds of ways for them to extend their working years on their own terms. Here are a few ideas to get them started.

Consulting: Did they work in a specialized field? Do they have skills or knowledge about your industry that could come in handy to people throughout the field? Consulting requires very little overhead and can often allow a person to set his or her own hours. It might be worth their time to open the old address book and call some old business associates to test the waters.

Reselling: They can follow Ken’s route and begin buying and selling items on the Internet. While Ken puts work into fixing up old cameras, he also sells some goods as-is. By keeping an eye out for sales at local retailers and online outlets, he comes out with a pretty healthy sales margin just by buying low and selling high.

Creating: Know someone with an artistic streak? Who likes to work with their hands? Who is interested in photography? There are all kinds of resources on the Internet to sell handicrafts, paintings, photos, and more. Painters can check out Crafters should try Photographers could visit And branch out from there.

Learning: Maybe they want to get back in the workforce but are worried about a rusty skillset? Many universities and community colleges offer a la carte classes, and some of them even cater directly to seniors looking to get back into the workforce. And the web is booming with online classes — many of them free — on a whole host of useful topics. For example, is a great place to start when brushing up computing skills.

Know a senior who’s working? Retired? A little bit of both? Whether they’re looking for an active retirement lifestyle or a quiet place to put their feet up in between work appointments, Lutheran Hillside Village can be the perfect place for them! Visit
or call Ellyn at 309-689-9605 to learn more.

Photo credit: Lutheran Hillside Village