‘Nobody ever dies wishing they had worked more.’ Now, I’m not on my death bed as I write this (at least I hope not – what a boring way to go), but ever since I received my underwhelming degree results I’ve always had a hunch this might not be right. To this hunch I can now add a little evidence. A survey conducted by Ipsos Mori for the excellent Centre for Ageing Better found that the majority of us want three things in later life: Health, Financial Security and Social Connections. What magic wand can bring all three at the same time? Work of course!
On the health front, numerous studies have demonstrated the dangers of retirement for both mental and physical health. For example, a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs, found that being retired increases the likelihood of suffering clinical depression by 40% and of suffering at least one physical ailment by 60%. You don’t need NASA-worthy evidence to suggest that work increases financial security and social connections – or at least it should do. So working more is likely to improve the quality of your later life rather than diminish it.
This may lift the spirits of those who have been dismayed by the increase in the pension age. In further good news, the economy needs older people to carry on working for more fundamental reasons than saving on pensions payment. According to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), by 2022 fourteen million people will have left the workforce whilst just seven million people will have joined. Unless you make some pretty heroic assumptions about robots the economy needs older people to carry on. And in even more good news, a large number of older people – but by no means all – want to work. The DWP estimates that there are currently four million over-65s looking for some sort of work but unable to find it.
Amongst all this good news, there is one massive, ugly fly in the ointment. Employers are terrible at employing older people. Rates of employment past the age of 50 drop dramatically. Happy retirements play their part but so too does ageism and inflexiblity. But to finish with one final bit of good news: this is changing and it is changing not because employers want to be nice to older people but because they need their help.
Alexander Stevenson is the founder of Blume which finds flexible work for older people – www.blume.life