The number of people working beyond state pension age has almost doubled to 1.4 million in the past 20 years, official figures revealed today.
One in eight (12 per cent) of older people now work beyond pension age up from just 7.6 per cent in 1993.
Two thirds of older workers have taken part time jobs with the most popular occupations being taxi drivers, care workers and cleaners.
The ONS found that a high proportion (two thirds) of the older men had stayed on in “higher skilled” roles such as sales directors and chief executives.
Other male workers were most likely to work as farmers or taxi drivers while most women worked in lower skilled jobs with the most popular occupations being cleaners, administration assistants, care workers and shop assistants.
Almost a third of older workers were self-employed, compared with just 13 per cent of those below the state pension age.
ONS statisticians said that older employees worked fewer hours, possibly helped by the financial support of their state pension and other pension arrangements, allowing them to fit their work around other commitments and interests.
Of the 1.4 million older workers above state pension age, 39 per cent were men and 61 per cent were women.
The study showed that the number of older workers rose from 753,000 in 1993 to 1.4 million in 2011.
The numbers were relatively stable until 2000 at around 800,000 but then increased to a peak of 1.45 million in 2010, the Office for National Statistics said.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said: “While the tough economic climate may be partly responsible for the increase in the number of post retirement age workers, it is good news that many older people are not being locked out of the job market because of their age.
“But these figures are only part of the story. The overall employment picture for many older workers is grim. More than 45 percent of unemployed people aged 50-64 have been out of work for more than a year – significantly higher than any other age group.
“With the State Pension Age due to rise in the near future, it is more critical than ever that the government acts to ensure employers do not overlook the skills and experience which older workers offer.”
Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said: "Many older people are increasingly choosing to stay at work, often part-time so that they ease more gently into retirement. If they feel fit and healthy and want more money, and are able to work, they are choosing to do so.
"Saga's research shows that many of our over-50s already want to work past 65. Around 71% would like to work part-time rather than retiring and in fact 7% are already working past the age of 70.
"This isn't just for the money - work satisfaction, feeling useful and the social benefits we gain from working were key reasons that people wanted to continue."
Darren Philp, policy director of the National Association of Pension Funds, said: "Our rapidly changing demographic is hitting home. Having more older people in the workforce will increasingly become the norm. Many are choosing to ease into their retirement for social and financial reasons, and part-time work is a popular option. Employers also value the skills and experience of older staff.
"The problem comes when people want to retire but end up stuck at work because they cannot afford to leave. With half the workforce not saving into a pension, this is going to become a painful reality for millions. It is vital that we get more people planning and saving for their old age, and that they start as early as possible."
In separate research, the ONS said that a clear north-south divide had emerged in estimates of life expectancy. At age 16 men in the south east can expect to live for a further 63.9 years compared to just 61.3 years in the north east. Women in the south east can expect to live a further 67.7 years compared to 65.4 years in the north east.
Statisticians also looked at disability-free life expectancy – which it defined as the number of years lived without a disability after the age of 16.
It found that people living in the north east can expect to see their health decline at 61 compared with 67 in the south east.
This means that the rising state pension age will see people in the north forced to work beyond the age at which their health begins to decline.
The pension age is being raised to 66 for both sexes by 2020, 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2046 and is expected to continue to rise. Ministers are currently planning to link the pension age to life expectancy.
Jean Rumbold, 70, lives in Southampton. She had to fight two appeals to fight being forced to retire, and currently works as a medical records officer in the NHS and as a swimming teacher.
“The worst thing in my life was my 65th birthday because I knew what was coming. It was like hitting a brick wall. People would wish me a happy birthday and I’d just burst out crying.
“I worked in a doctor’s surgery as a receptionist for 44 years, and when I turned 65 they chucked me out. I took it to appeal, and was told I could work another six months. And after 32 years, I lost my Brownie pack. So I lost my Brownie pack on the Tuesday, had my birthday on the Wednesday and lost my job on the Thursday. I appealed the Brownie decision, but nobody wanted to know.
“I went to work as a ward clerk in a mental health unit, and in March I became a medical records officer – it’s quite a posh title, I’d never had something like that. I work 22 hours for the NHS and 17 hours as a swimming teacher. I’ve run my own club since 1978. I can teach anybody to swim in 12 minutes. With one woman, I had to walk backwards as she swam, crying, and now she can do 800 metres. The look on their faces when they learn to swim, it makes my heart swell. My husband is disabled: he’s got severe osteoarthritis and a crumbling spine and I come home to visit him between shifts.
“Taking a pension is not an option, I’ve got to get out of the house. Daytime television would drive me insane. A lot of people don’t want to give up: 60 is the new 40. It’s not so much the money, it’s just the feeling you’re part of the working world. I’m still taxed on what I earn so I’m making a contribution to society. I’ll just keep going, I haven’t got an end date at all.”