As you know- I am always championing women over 50 in the workplace. But do we have a sell by date, and if we do, what should we be doing to extend it?
Whether for financial reasons or simply because we enjoy working, women are working for longer than ever before. According to figures released by the TUC, more than 1.6 million more women over 50 are currently working than 20 years ago. In fact 60% of women between 50 and 64 are economically active, with many choosing to set up their own businesses as feel they are discriminated against when it comes to mainstream employment.
With the increase in the state pension age, for many to NOT work is no longer an option.
But how well received are women over 60 in the workplace?
Businesses are making the gross mistake of assuming their employees near to retiring have a sell by date, according to cognitive psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw.
Lynda explains: “Instead of being recognised as the most knowledgeable, experienced members of our society, our Baby Boomers are being treated like they are easily disposable and lack any real value because businesses are constantly on the lookout for the new, the youngest and the cheapest. Our more senior (in age and knowledge) colleagues in reality are likely to be more valuable and as up to date in what matters as their younger counterparts.”
“Not many businesses newly employ someone in the early 60s. There is a huge amount of ageism and prejudice in the UK business world with the constant talk of a need for “new young blood in the firm”. What’s wrong with 60 year old, experienced and knowledgeable blood to keep the heart of the business going? We are not past our sell by date at 60; with the huge growth in centurions reaching this milestone, many of us are just getting going! If you love your work and are good at it – why retire?”
Lynda believes it will be even harder for future generations to retire because computers, SMART Technology and social media are so constant in our everyday lives, that our brains are even more on a state of alert than current retiring generations so it may be even harder for us to retire and actually enjoy it. We only have to look at how many people work on their laptops or are gaming on computers until bedtime to see why so many people are suffering from insomnia. ‘Switching off’ is increasingly becoming harder, so retiring in the traditional sense could be a challenge.
Do we retire or do we reinvent our working lives?
Lynda believes the psychology of retiring is complex. “From the retirees point of view retirement is such an emotive word. It sounds wonderful in principle if the retiree is choosing to retire rather than being forced out. Many of us retire with dignity and happiness and in the first year do all those things we haven’t had time to do. Many over–spend. It’s the second year when we may feel a little more unsettled and self-esteem and financial worries tend to be a problem. Those who can reinvent themselves by starting a new business, find a way to occupy their minds and stay fit, physically and mentally, are the ones who will really succeed at and enjoy retiring. Especially if they haven’t been pushed.”
Work and our Mental Health
“People underestimate the importance of work for our mental health and well-being. Being in work provides structure to the day, and a purpose in life. It helps one feel valued and useful. Our careers and day to day responsibilities support so much of what our identity is, and to not have that can often leave us feeling lost. We are by nature social animals.”
A 2013 report published by the Institute of Economic Affairs and Age Endeavour Fellowship states that retired people are 40% less likely to describe themselves as in very good or excellent health than working people of the same age. It also states that retirement increases the risk of depression by 40%, and that the chance of having at least one diagnosed physical condition increases by around 60%. www.iea.org.uk/in-the-media/press-release/retirement-causes-a-major-decline-in-physical-and-mental-health-new-resea
Lynda points out that physical illness can be linked to mental health: “When we feel low or anxious, parts of our body can shut down and our immune system is weakened. As a result, we are more susceptible to illness. Those who have retired and who find themselves lonely or bored will often find that this has a knock on effect on their physical health. In my view our sell by date gets closer when we retire, not when we work!”
With one in 6 women turning 50 today expected to live to be 100, to retire in our 60s would leave us with nearly as long in ‘retirement’ as in the workplace. Is this realistic? What are the options? How do you see your own future beyond 60?
I would really love your views and input on this!