How baby boomers are redefining retirement

With baby boomers redefining retirement, workplaces must evolve, writes Luke Fitzpatrick.

How baby boomers are redefining retirement

Baby boomers are redefining retirement and the workplace. Luke Fitzpatrick, who lectures in international business at the University of Sydney, offers these tips to older employees and employers.


A survey by Mercer found that only 32 per cent of people expected to completely stop working at the point of retirement. And a report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that over-65s accounted for seven to 16 per cent of the ‘independent workforce’ or ‘gig economy’, debunking the notion that millenials dominate this portion of the labour market.

Whether these trends are due to economic needs or choice, society should expect fewer full-time retirements compared with years gone by.


A World Economic Forum report, Investing in (and for) Our Future, says that the impact of this shift is significant for the economy, and for employers and governments.

“Older-age individuals wishing to stay employed will have to be accommodated by employers and governments, through retraining and the provision of incentives to employers to retain/hire older-age workers,” it says.

Late last year, the Federal Government funded a national rollout of the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program, but for things to really change, businesses need to sit up and take notice of common misconceptions about older workers.

Over-50s often find looking for work difficult. According to the University of South Australia’s Centre for Workplace Excellence, this group is likely to spend twice as long as a 24-year-old looking for a job.

Yet, over-50s are embracing personal technology, and an increasing number say they are confident they can keep up with future innovations.

And 35 per cent of all new businesses consist of ‘seniorpreneur’ start-ups.

So, how should employers and society generally be reacting to this trend?

Working with older Australians, not against them
Older workers generally have a lot of experience, knowledge, skills and contacts.

Today’s businesses claim they want more soft skills from their workers. Well ... older workers have soft skills by the bucketload. They bring:

  • time management
  • stress management
  • conflict management
  • creativity
  • persuasion
  • communication skills
  • emotional intelligence
  • focused productivity
  • storytelling
  • change management.

Young workers inject energy, hunger, agility and enthusiasm into a business, but older employees can offer all of the above plus wisdom, stability and a whole lot more. This mix of old and new builds a team that would be diverse in experience, background and personality.

Challenges are inevitable when integrating different life experiences, communication preferences and technological comfort levels. With this in mind, employers should try to:

  • Promote employee mobility and cross-training: Consider cross-training for different positions with a focus on the development of transferable skills. This will help keep the younger generations engaged while honouring the experience and tenure of older workers.
  • Vary their management approach: In general, each demographic has a preferred way of working, learning and conveying information. Employers can address differing preferences by taking a multi-pronged approach to communication, skills training, change management and employee appreciation.
  • Create opportunities for intergenerational mingling: Left to their own devices, employees tend to bunch up in age-based groups. Develop collaborative projects, introduce team-building activities and pair younger employees with older ones as often as possible.
  • Remind teams that diversity produces a better result: Focus on the end result rather than on how teams get there. Remove potential biases and entrenched ways of thinking. And allow employees to work in a way that suits them best.

What do you think? Do you feel you are keeping pace with digital technology or are you worried about being left behind? Do you know of any ‘seniorpreneurs’ Do you believe workplaces are adjusting to being less ageist?

Luke Fitzpatrick covers fintech trends on Forbes and teaches international business at the University of Sydney.

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    26th Sep 2019
    As an older Australian since retirement I have embraced Rural Fires Services in NSW as a volunteer carrying out Incident Management and Communications, it is an organisation like many that is forever undergoing technological changes, continually investing in its members and through these skills enables I and many other senior Australian's to keep abreast of technology in there daily lives.
    26th Sep 2019
    Is there an age or fitness requirement with the Rural Fire services, or any particular skills requirement?
    26th Sep 2019
    Hi Jim, Check out NSWRFS website re volunteers, RFS provides training, no age barrier, as to fitness IMT and Communications are generally at Fire Control Centres, some guys in wheelchairs others with other physical disabilities.Always looking for new members.
    26th Sep 2019
    Thanks I will look into it, I did 5 years with community transport after I retired, just a couple off days a week driving 2 different sizes of busses, one for hospital/doctor visits etc, and the other was for outings I really enjoyed it, but the diving finally got to me as I have a crook back ( arthritis ).
    26th Sep 2019
    These articles always seem to overlook physical & emotional capability as we get older! Most all of the "skills" mentioned being a plus with older workers are irrelevant where i work except conflict management & time management pretty much & as we get older rushing to finish tasks becomes very difficult when you are physically & mentally burnt out from being stretched to thin as a group which is very common these days (employers want maximum output for mimimum cost; ie less staff to do much more work than was previously expected/possible. This surely isn't sustainable without the cost of injuries & mental breakdown/ burn out/fatigue etc. Whoever wrote article has no clue how things are in a manual labour environment!
    26th Sep 2019
    I understand what you are saying. I think as you age that diet and recreational activity is crucial to be able to continue with manual work. I have changed to principally vegan with the occasional steak (one a month or fortnight occasionally) and I feel much lighter (not weight wise but in energy level) I also choose to do more joyful exercises e.g. playing in the back yard with the children, dancing to music, meditation, walking etc rather than repetitive cardio etc. I think outdoors is essential as much as the timetable permits and minimal screen time. Also going on interesting outings e.g. art gallery, museum etc to engage the mind and the senses. All of these things are possible as you are older I think and are very beneficial.
    Baby Huey
    26th Sep 2019
    I had a look at at the Federal Government funded national rollout of the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program. I noted that the program is limited to the 45-70 age cohort which I believe is wrong. At almost 74 I will be completing a MBA in mid 2020 and would like some help in finding part-time work.
    26th Sep 2019
    good luck with that work when you graduate Huey, hopefully you did these studies with financing HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP. Self-employment is your friend though there are lots of underemployed 'consultants' out there.
    Designated Driver
    26th Sep 2019
    "Challenges are inevitable when integrating different life experiences, communication preferences and technological comfort levels."

    This is academic speak for -

    "We are going to destabilize you to the maximum extent possible, so that you won't know whether you are coming or going, and will never become a threat to our supreme authority."

    Used to be called the "intentional unsettling process", back when employees first started being called by the more disposable friendly term - "resource".

    26th Sep 2019
    "Do you believe workplaces are adjusting to being less ageist?"
    No. As long as young people in their mid-30s or 40s are appointed to Senior Manager, GM and CEO roles, forget about older people getting a fair go, as these youngsters with less work experience will NOT hire older, more experienced people, who can challenge their ideas or even decisions, to work under them.

    Years of Experience MUST be an essential criteria for all Senior roles with more experience given more weightage, besides all other skills as needed, to make it fair for older people. Otherwise these discussions are a waste of time.
    27th Sep 2019
    If you are over 65 may now be 67 in WA don't have an accident at work. Workers Comp is out of the window. The max for a severe injury I believe is $150,000 as against under the retirement age the sky is the limit.
    Secondly visiting and dealing with Centre Link once you are over the retirement and working a few hours is not worth the trouble.
    This is when you get through the young Director of your department as you are considered a threat to THEM so you get put down all the time. I know I experienced it for some years until drummed out of the Local Authority as I was experienced in Survey Law (Land Administration) and also State Examiner for TAFE, I knew more than the Director. O well retirement is good with plenty of time on your hands and no work place bullying

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