There’s been a lot in the press in recent weeks about older people working longer. For example, Aviva’s Real Retirement Report found that 68% plan to continue working past the age at which they can draw the state pension. Similarly the Visions of Britain 2020 report from Friends Provident predicts that in the next ten years the number of older workers in employment will increase from the present 5.14m. to 7.16m.
The reasons for this increase, which undoubtedly will happen, are diverse. Many people have to work longer for financial reasons – not least of which is continuing to support or finance their children through their education and then through their struggle to find employment. At a time when many older people throught their off-spring would be flying the nest, they are coming back home.
At the other end of the scale there are increasing pressures to care for ageing relatives, who may be living longer but not always in the best of health.
On a positive note, many older people positively choose to work longer because they like many of the benefits work brings: recognition, value, social interaction.
However, if you lift the lid on this many also report that their employers tend to ignore or overlook their needs at this time of life as though “more of the same” is all that is required. Wisely, most older employees choose to keep quiet about their dissatisfaction, recognising that in comparison to their children, they have been lucky in having had careers. And in this economic climate most also consider themselves fortunate to still be employed.
But employers would do well not to overlook the fact that under their wise, stoical, responsible exteriors many older people are feeling frustrated, trapped and unfulfilled. Some – though not all – would like to learn more, would like to work more flexibly, and would like to feel more valued. Undoubtedly all would be prepared to give more in return.
Under the weight of all the pressure – often unrecognised – that accompanies this stage of life, many older people are not so buoyant at they seem. Holding their nerve and clinging onto their jobs in the knowledge they would struggle to find another one due to their age, they are not so much cheerily waving as drowning.