They live in a retirement community, but they’re nowhere near retirement

Jewell Parker and Dr. Margaret Zahn are in their 70s and 80s and both live at The Cardinal at North Hills in Raleigh. It’s a continuing care retirement community, but these two ladies are nowhere near retired.

They’re part of a growing trend of seniors working past standard retirement age.

A recent study by Pew Research shows 18.8 percent of Americans age 65 and older or nearly 9 million people reported being employed full-time or at least had part-time jobs.

In the 75-plus population, 8.4 percent of people are still working. That’s up from 5.4 percent. Older workers are also less likely to be part-timers. Nearly two-thirds of workers older than 65 have full-time jobs.

Parker started working in real estate in the 1980s as a way to be productive after her children left home and her husband retired. Now in her 80s, she’s still at it.

Her first project involved developing her family farm into a residential neighborhood. She eventually became one of the Triangle’s top producers and now two of her children are following in her footsteps.

Parker says people ask her when she’ll retire, but retirement hasn’t crossed her mind. She enjoys her work and plans to do it as long as she can.

“My job has been especially fulfilling,” Parker said. “It occupies my time and keeps me busy. Not a day passes that I don’t learn something new. I love collaborating with people and looking at different styles of homes and decor. Even though people question when I will retire, retirement hasn’t crossed my mind.

“I really enjoy the work I do,” she added, “and I plan to live independently and productively as long as I am able. I get satisfaction out of doing something every day, and I feel it’s worthwhile to have a reason to get up and live with purpose. I am so grateful to my family, friends and colleagues who have helped me along the way, for without them I would not be where I am today.”

Zahn, an academician, majored in criminology and is writing a book and conducting academic research. In fact, she just finished teaching a course on Terrorism and Public Policy at NC State.

After getting her doctorate from Ohio State University, she taught and did research. She worked for years fighting against terrorism in both the private and public sectors. Zahn later returned to the academic world and has been teaching ever since.

“These surprise opportunities can really shape who you are, what you do and what you know,” Zahn said. “While I have retired from a full-time university position, I still don’t think about full retirement as I continue to do research and write.

“My son and one of my sisters think it’s great that I’m still involved with the universities,” she added. “My research and book writing doesn’t feel like work to me. It is pure enjoyment.”

The story of these women was told on Eyewitness News 11 in Raleigh, N.C.

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