Ageing workforce: what are the benefits of working after retirement age?

Ageing workforce

Ageing workforce: what are the benefits of working after retirement age?

We can’t afford to waste the skills and experience of older people who want to work

Retirement isn’t what it used to be, and it never will be again. More and more of us are still working at an age when previous generations were out to grass and on the golf course.

Why? Some of us need the money, perhaps because we didn’t make sufficient provision for our retirement. It’s also quite possible that the pensions we do have aren’t keeping up with the rising cost of living. Or our parents are living longer and needing expensive care.

For others, retirement is an opportunity. It stretches out further than it used to. Many of us are fitter and more physically active in our 50s and 60s than our parents were. Life expectancy is at record levels and we can expect a much longer period of healthy, active retirement.

All the research suggests that keeping mentally active has significant benefits for health and wellbeing. But what are the options if you’re retired, or semi-retired, and looking for work?

A recent article in the Guardian highlighted some of the challenges faced by older people looking for work. Much of this is down to attitudes among employers, and the assumptions they make about older potential employees.

However, these attitudes are bound to come under increased pressure for two main reasons. The first is that the general upward shift in the age of the population will require society as a whole to reconsider its attitudes to older people; the second is that older people are already getting out there and showing the value they can add in the workplace.

Take 68-year-old Ron Mobbs from Cockfosters, who worked for 20 years as a senior management consultant. Ron doesn’t need to work, but he wants to keep active and continue contributing to society. He says: “People like me have a vast range of experience. We know how to cope with change better, we listen better, we’ve loads of knowledge and contacts. All this is enormously valuable to a younger, smaller business.”

Sue Taylor, 68, from London, has been helping a small tech startup with their marketing activities: “I’ve been working with computers for over 20 years now and I can assure employers that I have the skills to be productive in the workplace. I work part-time doing direct mail campaigns mostly, but help out with whatever is needed. I balance the work with my other activities, but working is the highlight of my week.”

Those employers who do take the plunge and go for the older candidate benefit too – they gain experienced, skilled and reliable people for their businesses, who can generally work on a flexible basis. Retirees can be just as productive as people in their 20s and, because they’re not at the start of their careers, they’re less likely to be on the internetduring office hours, looking for the next, better opportunity.

What can you do? The most obvious route to take if you’re older and want to work is to use the skills you used in your career. But you can also offer up the life skills you gathered at the same time. The skills you learned as a parent, for example, or your lifelong love of gardening. With a creative look at your life’s CV, there will always be lots of possibilities, and lots of businesses – especially small ones – who’ll want you.

Attitudes to older people are slowly turning, but they are turning. More and more businesses are realising the value of hiring young retirees. Society as a whole can’t afford to lose the skills and experience offered by older people and we all benefit by keeping them accessible.

And as the retirement age disappears over the horizon, what it leaves behind is a fantastic opportunity.

Dr Jonathan Collie is the founder of Trading Times, a new online service that matches the skills of the over-50s with the needs of local businesses

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