Retirement is becoming obsolete, says ageing advocate

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For previous generations, retirement was slated as the ultimate ending point of our working lives, something to strive to reach as soon as possible. However, studies continue to show that keeping older workers in paid employment helps boost their wellbeing by providing a sense of purpose while also keeping their body and mind active and alert.

It also means highly experienced workers can continue to share their expertise with up-and-coming colleagues in their field of expertise, adding value to their employer organisations.

While working full time forever is not the preferred solution for most people, it is becoming more popular for people to modify the terms of their employment as they get older. Whether it be moving from full-time to part-time work, or moving into a less senior role with fewer responsibilities, there are many ways to redefine what the final stage of your career looks like in this day and age.

This modification can be referred to as ‘transitioning down’ and is a fantastic solution in the era of increasingly flexible working conditions.

Of course, we need businesses and employer organisations to better engage with the older workforce, flexibly, and reap the value that is to be realised by doing so.

If you decide to take advantage of the transition down approach, you will greatly benefit from considered and strategic planning. This can be achieved through careful reflection on your own priorities, open and honest communication with your employer about what these priorities are, what capacity you are willing, and able, to contribute to paid employment and how this is able to be aligned with the needs of the organisation.

Before going to your employer, it is important to first identify what is personally important to you. What are your personal needs and preferences? What vocational, social and recreational priorities do you have for this stage of your life and how might these need to be adapted in the years ahead? 

Oftentimes, people wish to include a greater focus on time spent with friends and family, travelling and exploring new interests. This doesn’t need to be forfeited if you decide to remain in the workforce in your 60s, 70s or beyond.

It is important to keep in mind that your plans need to be adaptable, what seems certain at 50 may be off the agenda at 60, and things that may never have occurred to you as significant may suddenly become high priority in your use of time or as a requirement for your health and wellbeing.

It also means that time needs to be invested in reviewing the plans you have carefully made and considering whether they are still the best course of action for your immediate and perceived future needs.

Investing time in determining what your values are, and how you want to prioritise different aspects of your life and job, means that you can enter into any conversations or planning about transitioning down with a clear picture of what your ideal outcomes are. Just like any job negotiation, compromises are sometimes inevitable, but reviewing your situation and starting conversations early will help both you and your employer create a practical and mutually beneficial plan together.

Notably, financial situations can often dictate when you decide to step away from paid work, so this is also an important factor to include in your transition down approach. Realistic appraisal of your needs and future financial situation is crucial to your plans for reducing or ending your participation in the workforce and expert advice may be useful in this regard.

Regardless of why you decide to remain in the workforce, at a full-time or reduced load, making a plan will always be the best way to have a clear idea of what is to come and to stay in the driver’s seat when it comes to your life and your career.

Make time and space to consciously decide how you will find purpose and fulfilment in your later years and how an ongoing and readjusted work-life balance can contribute to that.

Marcus Riley is a positive ageing advocate whose career in the field of ageing and aged care spans two decades. He is the immediate past chair and current director of the Global Ageing Network and chief executive of BallyCara, a charitable organisation and public benevolent institution that provides accommodation, health, and care services for older people. He wrote the book, Booming, A Life-changing Philosophy for Ageing Well.

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Written by Marcus Riley



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