By Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant.
This article first appeared on the Over 60 website [Link: www.oversixty.com.au].
It may or may not come as a surprise to you but not everyone approaching the age of retirement is actually planning to retire in the true sense of the word. Without a doubt there are for whom retirement can’t come soon enough, but there is an equal portion who want to keep working in some capacity. In fact, 13 per cent of Australians aged over 45 said they intend to never retire!1 These people enjoy work – the structure, the camaraderie, the opportunity to utilise their skills and experience, and the ability to keep learning.
The challenge however, is that older workers can be the victims of outdated attitudes and stereotyping, such as ‘they can’t keep up with technology’ or ‘they’re out of touch with what customers want’. Some employers assume that mature works can no longer work safely or contribute effectively, and as a result can be forced to retired prematurely, denied promotions and miss out on training opportunities.
Almost one in five Australian workers are aged over 551 and they possess great experience, expertise and corporate knowledge. What a waste of talent, experience and expertise if organisations choose to ignore them.
Without a doubt, these ill-held views are in stark contrast to how the Baby Boomers approaching the retirement age today feel within themselves. By and large they are active, healthy, full of great ideas and want to make a meaningful contribution to the people and community around them.
As such, let’s break down these myths and counter them with the facts!
Myth 1: Mature workers can’t adapt to new technology
Fact: A far cry from the stereotype that older workers would rather use an abacus than an iPad, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that Australians aged 55-64 are the fastest growing users of information technology2. Not only that, but when compared with their younger counterparts tend to feel less anxiety about adopting it. Maybe the stereotype works in their favour that there is less expectation to ‘get it’ straight away?!
Myth 2: Mature workers are ‘stuck in their ways’
Fact: Older workers have experienced significant and constant change during their career. They’ve already adapted to fax machines, mobile phones, email, online banking (digitalisation of everything, really!), and globalisation. They know, and have demonstrated, that survival in the workplace requires constant and continual adaptation!
Interestingly, studies have repeatedly found that the most innovative companies are those in which age is a non-issue. Diversity of thought, including that which comes with age, is critical for companies to remain at the forefront of innovation and thus one step ahead of their competitors.
Myth 3: Mature workers will want to take more sick leave
Fact: A 2005 ABS survey found that 75.5% of Australians aged 55-64 reported their health as ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ and take on average fewer sick days than their younger counterparts. Not only that but mature workers are also less likely to receive a work-related injury (due to their experience), thus further reducing their sick leave.
Interestingly, the burden of caring for an elderly parent or partner does not appear to impact sick leave rates. Instead, older workers tend to work part-time or take planned leave as not to compromise their work.
Myth 4: Mature workers cost more
Fact: Mature workers are more like to be in a managerial role and thus receive a higher salary, however, they are also five times less likely to change jobs when compared with younger workers (those aged 20-24). This reduces ongoing recruitment and training costs and helps with the retention of corporate knowledge.
The retirement age no longer signals ill-health, a slowing mind and the nearness of death. If you are approaching the age of retirement I’m sure you know this only too well. It’s therefore time to bust those myths and encourage those who want to continue working. In fact with an ageing population it’s the only option we have!
If you are a mature worker, take heed of the facts and own your value. Take a moment to reflect on the unique contribution you bring to your team and be confident in your skills and experience. Life is for the living however you choose!
If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read What if Retirement Isn't for Me...? and Retirement Planning - Is your Financial Position Keeping you Awake at Night?
To better understand how prepared you are for retirement, why not download the Retirement Planning Questionnaire?
It's more than just a quiz, it's an action-focused tool that will help you take action today (not wait until the day you retire!) to create a retirement that you will love to live!