One scenario which is sadly overlooked in the debate about when to retire is that of the increasing band of older people who retire by default. These are the individuals for whom working life ends not with a retirement party, gold watch, or any other type of excited celebration but rather the slow realisation and acceptance that their state of continuing unemployment has slid into inevitable, irrevocable and unwelcome retirement.

For those who have worked hard all their lives, built a career, and paid their dues this seems a shameful way to be rewarded. Whether it occurs as a result of redundancy, illness or simply a failed attempt to change careers, start a business or undertake some other type of reinvention, it is nevertheless becoming an increasingly prevalent problem as older people want to work longer and find that the opportunities are few and the barriers are many.

Whatever their type of work, specific age or gender, many unemployed older people still feel, quite rightly, that they have numerous good, productive years left in them to spend in paid work of some type. Evidence shows that a high proportion would be prepared to downsize both their previous ambitions and their pay and hours for a chance to do a job that equates roughly to their level of skills and experience and allows them to remain part of mainstream life.

Yes, of course, they could do voluntary work and countless older people – both employed and unemployed – are happy to do so, but it’s not acceptable that this is the only option for all but the fortunate few.

One of the biggest fears for older people now is that stepping out of the employment arena, particularly as a result of caring responsibiliites, a period of ill health, or an inability to continue to cope with the relentless pressure of their current job, will be a death sentence for their working life.

To be in a situation in which the end of working life equals the end of hope can create a huge negative impact on individual feelings of worth and value. Okay, so older people are more resilient, but what sort of way is that to embark upon the challenges of true old age?