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Work Choices and Well-being: A Spotlight on Older Workers 

In honour of National Older Workers Week 2023, we are looking into the diverse range of reasons why over 50's continue working, and how different employment approaches can influence both financial and mental well-being. Our interview series provides a first hand account of the experience of older workers, how they navigate the workplace and the variety of reasons for continuing to work past midlife. 

In an ageing population where almost ⅓ of the workforce consists of older workers, people continue to work after traditional retirement age for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are positive like people enjoying their job and the sense of purpose work gives them. For others, the need to continue working is financial. No matter what the reason, we need to ensure that older workers have access to quality jobs where they are valued for their skills and experience.

At ProAge, we value the stories of our senior workforce.

To share your story, please get in touch at info@proage.org
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Written by Cerys Davies
Digital Marketing Manager

Trish Hepburn

Self Employed
Private Live-In Carer

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The Centre for Ageing Better’s ‘The State of Ageing’ Work report for 2023-2024 found flexible working to be the most important factor in choosing a new job for 50-64 year olds who left during the pandemic. To find out more about preferred styles of employment for older workers, I spoke to Trish. In her late 60’s Trish works as a self-employed live-in carer. 

 

How does the work you do now differ to the work you were doing in your 30’s and 40’s?

In my 30’s and 40’s I still worked within the community but I was doing more stable work, on contracts whereas now I’m self-employed and have to travel away from home. In that sense I had more security with long term contracts of employment, I was also based at home which was nice. 

 

Before this I worked as a teaching assistant, and a library assistant. I suppose it’s a more caring kind of field within the community, and it suits women of my age because we can pick and choose when and where we want to do it. I’d much rather be working around home, but I can’t get work - I’ll be 70 next year and you just don’t get accepted for jobs. 
I think employers are more inclined to take on someone younger, maybe they think they are quicker or more familiar with all forms of technology and social media.

"I want to continue to give to others, be involved in something."

What are your 3 main reasons for continuing work?

Financial reasons, I would say, is the most important reason. I need to top up my state pension. If I was financially comfortable I probably wouldn't work but volunteer instead. I want to continue to give to others, be involved in something, help  people and do something that I was interested in like gardening or alternative health. Keeping active socially and physically too. 

 

Did you need to retrain for your current job?

It hasn’t drastically changed, I didn’t need to retrain as I think my work revolves more around life experience. Working with people and just general life experience puts me in a good position to do the job I’m doing. 

 

My conversation with Trish highlighted the importance of flexible work to the ageing population but also showed the instability of zero hours contracts and self employment. Since 2000 there has been a 140% increase in over-65s running their own business (GOV.UK). On #NationalOlderWorkersWeek, it is important to consider all forms of employment and how they impact older workers. As we navigate the growing likelihood of the 100 year life, different types of employment are increasingly beneficial to older workers.

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Sue Davies

Self Employed
School Garden Educator

"I can continue learning from a wide range of interesting people and it feels really useful."

How does the work you do now differ to the work you were doing in your 30’s and 40’s?

The work I do now differs to the work I did in my 30's and 40's because it's self employed, before I was working for local authorities and I had much more responsibility. I was working in a professional capacity as a social worker in a hierarchy under a director so I there were a lot of statutory responsibilities. I decided to change direction when I was 50 because I was more freed up, financially, and I wanted to relinquish those responsibilities by doing something different. 

Has your previous work experience been useful in your new role?

Most of the skills from my previous work have been transferable to my current work, particularly working with young people and adults in a coordinating role. Now I coordinate volunteers and run a series of lessons for young people teaching them horticulture, which was what I retrained in. It's been useful of course, to have had all the life experience I gained from previous jobs, but I greatly prefer what I am doing now because I'm under less pressure. 

What are your main reasons for continuing to work?

I'd say my main reasons is that I actually like the job I'm doing! It's not pressured and is something I enjoy. I can continue learning from a wide range of interesting people and it feels really useful. Being self employed, I'm in control and have nobody telling me what to do, I plan it all myself and work to my own routine, It keeps me active and out. I love staying connected with the local community. Obviously it gives me extra money- which is always handy!

What benefits have you found from your career change?

I was lucky enough to transition away from full time work because there was a financial window of opportunity. The benefits have been meeting a whole range of new people who I wouldn't have met otherwise in my 9-5 office based work, like people who are interested in the environment and food growing. I work locally for myself, being in control of payments and my workload feels much less pressured. I'm able to stop thinking about work when work  stops, which really keeps my brain freed up to think about other things. 

Talking to Sue, I realised the benefits to retraining, and that many older workers stay in employment to stay socially and actively engaged. This aligns with the growing recognition of the importance of lifelong learning and adaptability in the workforce. As well as a sense of renewed motivation and skill development, lifelong learning has been proven to have a positive impact on cognitive health. It is crucial that older workers are welcomed into the workforce, provided with equal opportunities for retraining and career development.

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