I’m writing characters who are retired military/police or martial art fighters (not purely for performance), getting jobs as security, from apartment complexes to banks or even personal bodyguards. How different would the skills needed be? Would 90 year olds be too old? These are people in top/excellent physical shape of course.
One of these things is not like the others.
For the most part, security guard jobs are pretty low stress positions. Their employer may want them to be in reasonable condition, but so long as they can get around without assistance, stay awake, watch what happens, use the equipment, non-violently defuse minor situations, and call the police if something goes wrong, that’s all that’s all the job requires.
You don’t need a military or law enforcement background. In many cases, if you do have those backgrounds, you’ll have far better paying options than working as a security guard.
With that in mind, is 90 too old? It depends on the individual, but that is pushing it. Security guard work has become attractive as a source of income for retirees who are too old to work more physically stressful positions. That does result in guards who are in their 60s and 70s. I haven’t seen, or heard of, any in their 80s, but it’s certainly possible.
Again, I need to stress, being a security guard is not a combat position; if a situation gets completely out of hand, their job is to call the police, not get involved.
Everything I said above still applies to bank security guards. Their job is not to get into a firefight with a would be bank robber in a room full of bystanders.
Then we have bodyguards.
While the IRS doesn’t distinguish between bodyguards and security guard companies, these are entirely different animals. (Ironically, guard dog service companies are also classified as 56162s.)
Unlike a security guard, a bodyguard needs to be combat ready. A law enforcement or military background will be very attractive. They need to be in excellent physical condition. Where security guards are passive observers, a bodyguard’s job is their protectee’s safety. Could someone in their 90s still be working for a bodyguard company? Yes, but not in the field.
It’s entirely possible a company would have someone with decades of experience that they’d want to keep around for instructing new hires, or for their knowledge and experience. They may be part of the management team. However, at that age, they would be a liability as a bodyguard.
It’s also worth remembering that someone like that wouldn’t, necessarily, be harmless. If you’ve spent seventy years in a violent career path, you’ve probably learned a great deal. At the same time, someone who’s in their 90s is not going to be able to physically keep up with someone in their prime. Realistically, for actual bodyguards, you’re looking at someone in their mid-60s at the oldest, and probably much younger.
It’s also probably worth pointing out that, ex-military could be relatively young. In the US, military enlistment contracts generally only run for 6 years. If you enlisted at 18, you could be, “ex-military,” by 24. Having already served and honorably discharged. You can always reup your enlistment contracts, and it is possible for someone to make a career out of the military. However, that also results in a slightly different situation, long term, because then you (potentially) have the resources to comfortably retire by the time you’re 40. At that point, private sector security jobs may pay well enough to be appealing.
Police can also retire fairly early and still draw a pension. In this case, you’re probably looking at their 50s, though it could run into retirement at 65. If they left the police earlier in their life, they could certainly be working as a bodyguard while much younger. However, bodyguard work is a job where old age puts you, and your protectee at a significant risk.
The reasonable outcome is that, yes, you could have much older experts working for the company in support roles (particularly in training and planning), but the company would want bodyguards who could actually do the job, and safeguard their protectee in the field.
So, yeah, it does make sense to see older individuals working as security guards. This happens. It does not make sense to see older bodyguards, because that is a role where age will impair their ability to do their job effectively.