Jim Covington officially retired in December, but he said his retirement really began five years ago when he turned 65. Covington's company, Welbro Building...

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Jim Covington officially retired in December, but he said his retirement really began five years ago when he turned 65.

Covington’s company, Welbro Building, let him downshift from the high-stress job of operations manager to a less stressful, 9-to-5 job as trainer, mentor and author of in-house technical manuals.

Even his official retirement isn’t final. Covington has agreed to continue mentoring and training at Welbro.

Ed Borsoi, 70, officially retired in 1999 after 30 years with Rollins College, but he still teaches one language class a semester.

He is on campus interacting with students, “but I don’t have to go to stupid faculty meetings; I don’t have to serve on committees. It’s pure teaching.”

Judy Gallo, 66, officially retired in summer 2002, but stop by the University of Central Florida’s Student Financial Assistance office during registration and she is hard at work — counseling students, filling out reports, double-checking federal regulations and doing “a little bit of everything” in the workplace she once managed.

She works full time during registration. Otherwise, she works three days a week, taking at least a month off every summer to spend time with her grandchildren.

Covington, Borsoi and Gallo are part of a growing number of older workers going through “phased retirement,” which experts predict will become more common as baby boomers start retiring.

The traditional “cliff retirement,” in which older workers move from full-time work to full-time leisure, is still in practice. The idea of a middle ground has been around for decades, but it is rarely practiced outside academia.

“Phased retirement is something that’s going to happen. It hasn’t happened yet,” said Deborah Russell, director of economic security for AARP. She predicts the trend will emerge within three to five years in the health-care industry, with most other industries following suit.

Employers who rely on skilled and experienced employees will have to start offering older workers reduced and flexible schedules to keep them, pension experts say.

In private industry, it is more common for a worker to retire from one company and then work part time for another. The IRS has strict limits on wages paid to pension beneficiaries from the same company.