Almost everybody needs or wants to work in their 50s and most need to work into their 60s. But the pandemic has not been kind to older workers.
The "Great Resignation" - a term that describes those who have been emboldened to seek raises or discover better things to do than work - mostly applies to young and mobile workers.
Only employees ages 16 to 24 have seen big wage gains, while older workers' wages have been stagnant.
In addition, a sizable chunk of older workers, about 15 percent, lost their jobs in 2020 compared to 14 percent of prime-age workers.
That is counter to the trend of older worker job loss usually being lower compared to other age groups during a recession.
A greater-than-expected share of older workers in their mid-60s and over (presumably with padded retirement accounts and Covid-19 fears) did in fact choose to retire.
But younger older workers, or those aged 55 to 64, seem to have been forced out of work - often without substantial retirement assets.
The median retirement account balance for older workers is USD15,000, which means it is likely many of those workers are looking to jump right back into the labour pool.
During a bipartisan congressional economic hearing recently, Senator Amy Klobuchar asked what everyone is thinking, the gist of which is - if employers need workers and there are millions of older workers who were forced out of work, how can older workers secure those open jobs?
While it sounds pretty straightforward, factors such as employer bias and mismatched skills are difficult hurdles to overcome.
But there are a few things that older workers, employers, and even Oprah can do to improve their prospects.
First, older workers on the job hunt should take advantage of available services geared to them specifically.
It is also important for older workers to not let unpaid work impede their job search, if at all possible. Many workers who left the labour market during the pandemic did so to provide unpaid care.
Mothers of school-age children dominated the headlines, but older men and women do considerable non-paid caregiving as well.
With health-care employment down by more than 370,000 jobs in the United States (including more than 200,000 in nursing homes), it is not surprising older workers feel pressure to take on some care, such as for a spouse or for grandchildren.
But the wage losses for being a family caregiver are considerable. Going back to school probably is not the answer. Getting a second master's degree is a cost that may never be recouped.
Instead, try courses through massive open online course portals or Coursera to "badge" your way into a new job. Some of the classes offered are tied to jobs, such as programming or data science, while others provide formal, in-person certifications like the Lean/Six Sigma belt system for business operations.
And here is how a celebrity like Oprah can help. She could do a version of her book club, but for online courses she suggests taking.
Many people start these classes but do not finish since it is hard to maintain energy and dedication for two to three hours of studying for seven weeks. Doing it with others can be fun and make people accountable.
For their part, employers should do as much as they can to replace their conscious or unconscious bias against older workers.
Shed terms like "energetic" and "digital native", and instead specify "mature", "experienced" and "reliable" in job postings to let the market (and lawyers) know you welcome older applicants. Let IBM Corp. be a cautionary tale.
The company is facing an age discrimination lawsuit, and internal emails recently released as part of the proceedings show executives described older workers as "dinobabies" who should become extinct.
Everyone's retirement age is different, and you do not have total control over when that is. But if the market is pushing you to an earlier retirement age than you are ready for, remember there are ways to fight back.