- Isabella Lenarduzzi

Age is no barrier for some

Governments in Europe have been banging on, for what seems like years now, onthe need to work longer. It’s a fact that the retirement age will rise and that pensions will dwindle for younger generations. Then OECD estimated that if nothing is done, there could be only one person employed for every retiree in European countries by 2050. As a result, the labour market could shrink by nearly 15% in the EU 15 over the next five decades. The average legal age of retirement is just over 64, but it dips to as low as 58 in Turkey and to as high as 67 in Norway and Iceland. Women are often in retirement longer than men. On average in OECD countries, it’s just over 22½ years for women and about 17½ for men, who tend to work longer and die younger. Some people are bucking the trend to retire at a “certain age” and continuing to work longer, among them are some truly inspirational women.

According to Dorothy Dalton, Executive Search and Career Transition, more than half the women of pensionable age in the UK are choosing to work beyond retirement. She cites the research carried out by the Kauffman Institute in the US, which indicates that the older entrepreneur will be at the forefront of the post recession upturn throughout the world. And there are plenty of 50-plussers out there who want to take up the challenge, and continue working and contributing to the economy.

And as one nonagenarian in Britain shows, when you have a job, it can even be rewarding to carry on working. Phyllis Ayres, who happens to be the great-grandmother of a colleague of mine, celebated her 90th birthday back in January while at work. Yes that’s right I’m not joking she was among colleagues at the private residential care home where she, is not a resident, but an employee! Phyllis Ayres worked as a housekeeper before becoming a stay-at-home wife following the couple’s marriage in 1941. It wasn’t until 1975 aged 54 that she starting working again as a school caretaker at before retiring 15 years only to take up her current job. Although she has recently cut back her hours, she now only works four days per week, when asked if she would continue to work she replied: “Of course!”, as if the very question was absurd. She’s saving up for her next cruise.

Phyllis is not alone, a 69-year-old British grandma, Ruth Flowers, is becoming a star DJ at some of the most prestigious dance clubs in France! The young party crowd loves her! So given half a chance the grey economy can do it for themselves.

However, this is small comfort for those fifty plussers highlighted in a survey by KU Leuven who can’t find work to begin with let alone continue it for longer. It is particularly bad news for the ageing populations of Brussels and Wallonie that were listed among the first three places where the unemployed over 50s find it extremely difficult to get back into work. Only Slovenia fared worse in Europe. Governments must work harder to dismantle the barriers to hiring and retaining older workers so that we can find work.

The challenge going forward is for governments to combat age discrimination, dismantle the employer barriers to hiring and retaining older workers and expand the range and opportunity for employing the older generations. But as these two women prove it is certainly possible to buck the trend and continue working past a “certain age” if given the oppportunity.

Ladies you are a true inspiration!