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  • Tampa Bay Times

Older Floridians are going back to work as life gets less affordable

Larry Gesick couldn’t hear his alarm, so when it went off at 5 a.m., his wife nudged him awake. A half-hour later, he was out the door — green polo tucked in, lunch cooler in hand.

While neighbors slept, Gesick ambled to his car, guided by street lamps and moonlight.

He is 77 years old, a Vietnam veteran and a great-grandfather to two. He’s also part of the fastest-growing age group in the labor force: people 75 and older.

On that early morning in March, he was on his way to Publix for work.

Americans are living longer, and for some, continuing to work in their later years is a practical choice made for mental and social well-being. But for many, like Gesick, it’s also a matter of necessity.

Seniors work because they have to afford medical bills, mortgages, food and the occasional pleasure. Because their fixed incomes and drained savings accounts are no longer enough to keep them afloat as the cost of groceries, homeowners association fees and insurance rates soar. Because they’re one crisis from financial disaster and fear they won’t be able to afford assisted living if their health suddenly declines.

So around 5:30 a.m., Gesick left the gated community where he and his wife, Joyce, bought a condo in 2021. This was supposed to be their final stop — a safe place to grow old together, where they’d spend their days riding bikes along the water and having lunch with friends.

Instead, Gesick readied himself for another eight-hour shift stocking shelves with salads and organic juices, lifting boxes of bananas and potatoes and pears.

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