For some time now the over 50s have been the driving force behind the growth in employment figures in the UK. In fact there are now more than 10 million people over the age of 50 in work, a record high. Similarly, we looked at the growing trend of older workers aged 70 and over in a previous blog. With an aging population and declining birth rate, this is only going to continue increasing, so is it time to completely rethink our attitude to retirement?
For many of us, now the default retirement age has been scrapped, long gone are the days when we had to hang up our uniforms and retire at 65. Yet it seems that it is harder to shake off old habits and entrenched views. Many people reach their 50s and start to feel as if they are beginning the descent into retirement, while the reality is that they are likely to have at least another 15 years of employment ahead of them. Plenty of time to set and achieve new goals or even try a change of career, and a long time to hang on waiting for the end.
The age at which both men and women receive their state pension will hit 66 by October and will continue to go up to 67, with plans for this to increase again to 68 by 2039. Yet as the retirement age increases, we seem ill equipped to deal with our longer careers and the issues this raises for businesses, individuals and their families.
“Older employees not only address their need for financial resilience and continued engagement in society, they add economic and social value to all aspects of society and can be a major asset to employers.”
The above quote is from an article by Jo Ann Jenkins, which perfectly sums up the opportunities that an older workforce can bring to organisations and society at large. However, for this to happen we need to make changes.
The lack of flexibility around the state pension is just one example. Once you reach retirement age you can choose to draw your full pension, or defer it and carry on working. This all or nothing approach seems at odds with our increasingly flexible working lives. With more of us choosing to work flexibly, or combining employment with a side hustle as just one example, it seems obvious that giving older workers more control and choice over their working lives would pay dividends, and allow more of them to remain working for longer on their own terms.
Despite our changing demographics, negative stereotypes and ageism still exist in many quarters. The over 50s still face more difficulties than other age groups in accessing training and employment support, furthermore people over 50 who lose their job are also likely to spend longer out of work compared to their younger counterparts. There are currently over a million people aged 50-64 who are out of work, but who would like to be employed.
In order to help older workers feel more engaged in the workplace, there needs to be better access to employment support and training specifically aimed at the over 50s. This is a big task given the numbers involved and so some state level input is definitely needed. There also needs to be a change in attitude among many employers. All too often, older workers are looked at as a problem, rather than an opportunity. Many organisations have in fact seen massive benefits from employing a multi generational workforce and mixing the best of traditional business practices with new ideas. Opening up the lines of communication between colleagues with different experiences and perspectives, can be invaluable in terms of problem solving and improving efficiencies. Millenials are often accused of having a sense of entitlement that previous generations did not, however their outspokenness and willingness to question the status quo can be useful in improving practices, especially when it is moderated by the more cautious approach of their older counterparts.
With a more flexible and holistic approach, there is no reason why older workers cannot remain as motivated and engaged employees for as long as they wish.
If you are looking for support in the later stages of your career, it’s never too late to open a conversation and discuss your options. You can get in touch with me via my website or email [email protected]