November 7, 2022

Should focus change from retirement to making work “age-friendly?”

Writing in the Globe and Mail, columnist Linda Nazareth asks if the days of “looking forward to gold watches, pensions, and rounds of golf” are gone – to be replaced by efforts to make work more “age-friendly.”

“Whether it is to keep themselves active or to make up for the inflation-eroded value of their portfolios, many are not looking to retire early, or perhaps at all,” she continues.

She says the workforce – even after the current post-pandemic job vacancy crisis is over – will likely continue to age, so there are “legitimate reasons to keep (older) employees earning – for their financial well-being, but also because many industries will continue to need their contributions.”

She notes that in the U.S., a study carried out for the National Bureau of Economic Research created an “age-friendly job index” that covered 873 jobs “in terms of their attractiveness to older workers.”

“Examining each job for a host of characteristics including flexibility, telecommuting, physical job demands, pace of work, autonomy at work and paid time off, the NBER study came to the conclusion that over the past three decades, work in general has indeed become more age-friendly,” she writes.

“That varied a bit by industry, with jobs in the finance and retail industries being the most age-friendly and including occupations such as insurance adjusters, financial managers and proofreaders. The least age-friendly jobs tended to be in manufacturing, agricultural and construction and involve a physical component of work.”

Researchers found that while the number of jobs for older workers are rising, it’s not only older workers filling “age-friendly” jobs – “instead… the jobs were disproportionately filled by women and college graduates,” she notes.

Older workers tend to be working in the jobs they had throughout their career (which researchers suggest have become age-friendly jobs), but some continue to work in “old-economy sectors such as manufacturing, and in conditions that in general are physically demanding.”

And that’s the interesting conclusion – there are lots of jobs out there being created that are ideal for older workers – less physical demands, more flexibility for working from home, etc. However, “there are reasons to believe that older workers are not necessarily getting access to those jobs,” she writes.

“If that is happening because they are actually less productive, then that should be addressed in some way by investments in retraining and reskilling whether by employers, government or the workers themselves. If, however, they actually are as productive as younger workers but are simply being shut out of them by ageism, that needs to be remedied,” Nazareth writes.

It’s an interesting sort of chicken-egg argument – should older workers look for “age-suitable” jobs, or should employers tweak existing job descriptions and duties to be more “age-suitable?” Other factors, of course, are the health of the job-seeking senior, and whether or not they need additional employment income to cover living expenses after reaching retirement age. Can they work, and do they need the money?

For those of us who do want to retire, a key condition that needs to be met is having sufficient retirement income to make work unnecessary. If you have a pension or retirement program through work, you’ve got a leg up. If you don’t, consider the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. SPP is like your own, personal defined contribution pension plan. You decide how much to contribute, SPP invests your savings, and at retirement, you have income options to choose from including SPP’s stable of lifetime annuities. Check out SPP today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


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