There’s no getting around it: Retirement is changing

After years of working, playing and experiencing most of what life has to offer, retirement is the time where you put up your feet, sit back, and relax - or is it?


Satisfied with your achievements, you can rest and enjoy the fruits of your labour - do you actually want to? The traditional view of retirement is changing and is now less about moving towards a life of leisure and no work, to be more about balancing life with work - where people still get to enjoy retirement but it's mixed with work so they stay active, engaged and the bank ticking over.  In fact, 88% of people in New Zealand plan to work past the typical retirement age of 65 years for professional, social and economic reasons.


The view that you spend the years after 65 in retirement is changing and the image of a retiree is becoming outdated.

We used to think of retirement as a time to pursue hobbies and pastimes that weren't possible when work got in the way.  But there's only so much golf you can play or visiting friends you can do before many people lose a purpose and want to get back and be involved with something. Also, developing technology, a higher standard of living and the emergence of newer, more adaptable job options have made retirement seem dull by comparison.  Oh yes – and the cost of living is rising, we might want to do something fun in our older years, spend more time travelling to visit family and friends, or maybe even help our kids get on the housing ladder.


Aside from that, people over the age of 45 have something far more desirable that a company looks for aside from free time: they have experience, and lots of it.   Older workers have often mastered soft skills such as leadership, management, and workplace ethics - traits that their younger counterparts need years to catch up on.  With more experience, skill, and capacity to work, the older generation has many of the attributes and qualities businesses need.  

Is traditional retirement retiring? 

There's definitely a sense of this now as people look at their later years in a different way.  More and more people aren't just stopping work when they reach a certain age. But as our population ages many companies aren't prepared to manage the affects either.  A study carried out as part of the Retirement Commissioner's review of retirement income policies (2016) showed more than two-thirds (69%) of businesses believe there is a shortage of highly skilled workers in their sector and 70% were worried they would lose experience and skill when people retired.  


in many cases, workers will voluntarily exit because there appears to be no support in place to help them keep working.  This vacuum of skill, experience and tenure can create a gap that companies struggle to fill.  This is part of the reason why New Zealand is facing a skills shortage.  Economically speaking, this vacuum can really impact a country’s productivity.  With experienced workers departing and the need to invest in training new people there is a very strong argument for businesses to help people stay employed and avoid the significant drop-off in available skills. Having this cohort for longer will provide a period of time for succession planning so these skills aren't lost.


And the problem is only going to grow as the number of people over the age of 55 increases. According to Statistics New Zealand (2013) the 55 year old and over age bracket is expected to grow from 1.1 million people in 2011, to 1.7 million in 2036, and 2.2 million in 2061, 37% of the popuation. In a way, the culture of retirement has largely been taken for granted by career builders and recruitment agencies as an inevitable stage in the lifecycle of businesses.  But that doesn’t mean that the curtain has to fall on people's working lives this early. 


One foot forward for the older players

But there’s no denying it: more and more people want to keep working for as long as they can regardless of age and people want to do things when they have more time. It may be as simple as enjoying your home or as exciting as going on an adventure. Demographics also show that the balance of the workforce is rapidly leaning more towards the older generation over the younger one.  There are fewer younger new people entering the workforce to replace the gaps in skill and knowledge that the older generation take with them when they leave. The simplest and most cost-efficient option is to simply have older, more skilled workers remain for longer. Many industries are addressing this issue and taking steps to have more older workers in their workforce, which is mutually beneficial for employee and employer, but more could be done.


Views about job hunting as an older worker and hiring people over the age of 45

Finding a job after the age of 45 is going to be hard.  A lot of people in their later years struggle to find employment and ageism does exist.  However, seeking work as a mature person is getting easier with technology and tools now being used.  And because there are increasing numbers of older workers it's becoming more necessary for businesses to look seriously at employing more older workers. 

Job seekers over the age of 45 are “low-energy”.  Todays' 60-year-old’ is far healthier now and with this comes energy levels.  It's true some people do get slower as they get older but most are in remarkable shape and more than capable of keeping up with younger employees.  Also, as people get older they may need more flexibility with work hours or days but that's part and parcel of businesses having processes and systems in place to manage older workers better. 

Dealing with technology.  What do you think the older generation uses to get in touch with their grandchildren?  Older workers are no strangers to technology and are very adaptable when it comes to using it.  They may need some more time to train but they have this.  As one person commented when Wise Ones was launched  "who first used technology at work in the first place - the baby boomers!" 

Older workers are set in their ways.  Another popular misconception is that as people get older they get “stuck in their ways” and therefore won't fit in. This could not be farther from the truth. Older workers who want to carry on are often seeking new and different opportunities and don't want to just repeat things they are used to doing.  Older workers are also very resilient to change as they have managed many different situations during their working life.

Is there anything else they can offer?  Finally, one more misunderstanding about older workers is that they've spent - that they can’t offer anything new when it comes to ideas.  However, given their time and experience, it’s more than likely that they’ll be able to contribute in this area quite a lot, especially if the company is young and growing rapidly.  


So what does this mean for retirement and retirees?

It means that we need to take a long look at ourselves. It has become astonishingly easy to write off people based on age, or on stereotypical portrayals of them, or simply because we feel like they’ve been there for a while.  Younger generations often see it this way and many don't want to be challenged by an older person who may know more.  But also older workers who leave work, often do so due because they don't see any other option.


Retirement has changed from it being the normal course of life, to now being optional.  Companies need older workers, and sometimes the truth of the matter is that they need them more than older workers need companies.  There is a sizeable gap in skills that needs to be closed, and there are still careers to be made even as people enter their 60s.'


Recruitment agencies need to widen their pool of considered candidates to those who they may have written off too early.  And those who think that their time is through, it’s never too late to take a look and see and if there’s still some spark in you.


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