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Women over 50 in the Workplace – Do We Have a Sell by Date

work or retirement over 60Article by Ceri Wheeldon

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!









Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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  1. Claudia Schmidt

    February 27, 2014

    I personally reinvented my career as my kids got into grade school so that I’d be able to spend more time with them. I resigned, brought a couple of clients from my corporate gig and started consulting. I’ve been doing it for 7+ years and it’s been wonderful, with tons of flexibility for raising my now 2 teens. In a few years, once they’re out of college, I expect I’ll do another reinvention which I’ll continue way into my life, hopefully allowing me to be able to support myself into my 90’s/100’s (as we’re all going to live way longer than our own parents!).

    • Ceri Wheeldon

      March 1, 2014

      Hi Claudia, thank you for your input on this. Hopefully we can all have more than one career or reinvention in our lives. Looking forward to hearing more about your next one! 🙂

  2. colleen

    March 5, 2014

    I went back to grad school at age 48 to become a social worker. Eight years later, I’m in private practice as a psychotherapist. I’m convinced that self-employment is the way for us to work until WE are ready to retire, not some policy that HR implements. I’m not planning to retire anytime soon, God willing. And when I do, it’ll be on my timeline.
    Try to learn some new skills ladies. And let us support each other in our endeavors; United We Stand!

  3. Janet Gorin

    March 6, 2014

    I am nearly 67 and still working full time. I must admit to being terrified about the thought of retirement as I am pretty useless at almost everything apart from work related tasks. I feel that work gives me a purpose, I have a reason for getting up in the morning, I have a part to play in life and a routine. Without work I just know i will probably give up. I haven’t had time to make many friends or learn any hobbies and as my finances will be considerably less than at present I have no idea how I will cope.

  4. Ruth Barlow

    March 8, 2014

    I am 67 still working and enjoying my work but have had to re-invent myself.

    In my late fifties went back into full time education for 2 years gaining an HND in Landscape Technology
    from University of Glamorgan and gaining acceptance into professional organisations.

    I now work for a couple of national Lawn Treatment companies as a Consultant which involves
    going to visit potential customers and giving them a detailed quotation for treatment of their lawns.

    ‘Am self employed with flexible hours, out and about interacting with people, using brain power
    to calculate quotes , getting exercise and getting paid for doing something I enjoy. Like all sales
    roles there are targets to meet but this is challenging.

    I have just taken on another role for our local hospice which is promoting their lottery.
    Had to apply, fill in application form, attend panel interview and got the role which I will run
    side by side with my other work.

    There is work out there for the over 60’s other than the 4 C’s, caring, cleaning, cooking or clerical but
    you may have to retrain to get your skills marketable for employment in the 21st century but most
    of all have a ‘can do attitude’ and remain positive.

  5. Savvy Working Gal

    April 20, 2014

    At 51 I am the youngest person in my department. We always hire what we call – mature – employees. We don’t set out to do this, we just seem to prefer a more experienced candidate. We don’t have a huge training program, so like the employee that can take what they’ve learned elsewhere and adapt it to our company. The only problem I foresee is everyone retiring at the same time.

    I too help to reinvent my career and do something different with the second half of my life. I always said I didn’t want to end up like my in-laws – yelling at the TV all day.

  6. women's fashion over 60

    April 27, 2014

    Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Spending some time and actual
    effort to generate a really good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole
    lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

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