Retirement is one of those words that is becoming less relevant over time and let’s hope it disappears from our vocabulary some time soon. These days, it is unusual for people to be working full time one day and not at all from the next day forward. It is much more common for people to gradually reduce the amount of effort they put into paid work – by reducing their working hours or taking on less stressful work.
As the workforce ages with baby boomers moving through to the late stages of life, the ratio between income-earning and non-income earning people is changing. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, one in three people living in the developed world will be over the age of 60. New thinking is emerging around how to keep people working longer and how to reduce the level of dependence of older people on the working population.
There are some psychological barriers in the way of achieving these goals. Older workers are commonly perceived as being less energetic, harder to train and set in their ways. It can be very hard for people over the age of fifty to find new work as a result. Older people themselves can underestimate their ability to make valuable contributions in the workplace. Society needs to find ways to value and utilise the knowledge and skill of older people either at work or in the community.
There are advantages for both employers and employees in doing this. Employers get to retain access to key knowledge – because, in spite of technological change, many things in the world don’t change. Older people who keep working are better prepared financially for the time when they are no longer able to work and able to feel they are making a valuable contribution to society.