In the post-pandemic era, an increasing number of people have been making the decision to retire earlier than planned. But why is there this rush to retirement when many people have so much to give?

Retirement is often visualised as an endpoint to the career marathon. However, we should consider if the race is indeed over or a new one is just beginning.

Many achieve their most significant accomplishments later in life. The recent coronation of King Charles III, who at the age of 74 is assuming a new role, is a testament to this. In the US, President Joe Biden, nearing 82, has announced his intention to run for a second term in 2024, likely facing off against Donald Trump, who will be 77. These examples demonstrate that age is not a barrier to meaningful work or contribution.

The decision to retire is influenced by many factors, including financial stability, job satisfaction, evolving care responsibilities, and health. Those engaged in physically demanding work may understandably feel the need to retire earlier. Those in less physically taxing roles, particularly those who find fulfilment in their work, might prefer to continue. Given the current cost of living crisis, continuing to work is also a financial necessity for many, irrespective of the work they do.

The advent of hybrid working has made the transition to retirement more flexible. The traditional abrupt retirement (‘from 70 mph to a complete standstill’) can be replaced with a gradual wind-down, preventing the boredom that often accompanies the sudden stop.

While some may yearn for the tranquillity of country life in retirement, others thrive in the cultural richness of city life. Regardless of location, maintaining health and wellness is essential. A balanced diet, regular exercise, a strong social network, and a sense of community profoundly influence mental and physical wellbeing. Many of these are benefits provided by the workplace and can be lost on retirement.

Those who maintain curiosity, continue learning, and keep their minds active often report more positive experiences in their later years. New hobbies and activity groups can replicate the sense of connectedness that the workplace provides, an important aspect of life that should not be underestimated.

The benefits of older workers during change

Mature workers:

  • bring a broad perspective based on greater experience
  • have experienced lots of change before – good and bad – and can bring best practice ideas from what they’ve seen work well before
  • may be familiar with the history and context of the business, which can help avoid the repetition of old mistakes
  • have good networks of colleagues across the business and can be helpful as change agents and as trusted communication channels
  • can help mentor and support others through change
  • ensure proposals work for older workers as well as younger ones, avoiding indirect or unintentional discrimination
  • can be more resilient to change than those facing it early in their careers or  for the first time

Ancient Wisdom

However, it’s crucial to challenge the perception that reaching a certain age equates to being ‘over the hill’. Many mature workers have much to offer in terms of experience, wisdom, and the ability to coach and mentor younger workers.

It’s essential that organisations recognise this and avoid consciously or subconsciously discriminating on the basis of age. Companies should strive to reflect the multi-generational nature of their customer base, a principle we champion and support at Change Associates.

Indeed, at a time when organisations are crying out for available talent and many global governments are trying to persuade early retirees back into the workforce, it seems perverse that some organisations remain reluctant to consider older workers.

In The Case for Hiring Older Workers (HBR, 26 September 2019) authors Josh Bersin and Tomas Chamorrow-Premuzic, make a compelling argument for recruiting and retaining older workers, highlighting their unique skills, dependability, and experience. The article dispels common misconceptions about older employees, arguing that they are just as capable of learning new technologies as their younger counterparts and have lower turnover rates.

In conclusion, planning for retirement should be a considered process, for both the individual and their employer.

A retirement road map, which may include continued part-time work, volunteering, or pursuing hobbies, can ensure later years are fulfilling and stimulating.

The desire to achieve, contribute, and engage in meaningful activities is what keeps us motivated, satisfied and alive!

Employers should embrace this and value older workers for the richness, experience, and diversity of thought they bring to the workplace.

Get in touch to discuss how you can manage, retain and motivate your mature staff, particularly during times of change. 

Ruth Kaye