Workplace ageism, and the best age to retire

Workplace ageism, and the best age to “retire”

A third of the New Zealand workforce is over the age of 55, and the proportion working past retirement age has risen steadily. Despite current labour shortages, ageism is still alive and well.

Older workers in New Zealand believe ageism has grown more prevalent in workplaces in the past five years, according to a new report. The findings, published by New Zealand Seniors, show that 71% of the respondents think ageism in workplaces is prevalent, with 30% believing it has grown in the past five years.

Seniors (over 65) who wanted to continue working cited the following benefits to it:

  • Enjoying working (65%)
  • Maintaining a sense of purpose (63%)
  • Coping with the rising cost of living (61%)

Other research backs up these wellbeing benefits (from continuing to work into old age).

But what is the ideal age to retire? Never, according to renowned American neuroscientist Dr Daniel Levitin PhD, who says it’s best to stay busy and engaged (both cognitively and socially). Dr Levitin interviewed a number of people between the ages of seventy and one hundred in order to better understand what contributes to health and life satisfaction.

It’s best to keep working, either in a job or as a volunteer doing something meaningful. It’s estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of people who retire reenter the workforce.

Church and community activities also play a part in helping older people stay active, and full of purpose.

Maintaining a sense of purpose for as long as possible is vital. People who live purposeful lives, who feel needed and make meaningful contributions are shown to live longer and have greater quality of life. Conversely, too much time spent with no purpose is associated with unhappiness.

Engaging the brain is crucial for maintaining cognitive health. A recent study found a 30% reduction in short-term memory in the first year of retirement. This underscores the importance of staying mentally active, being challenged and learning new things, which work provides. It’s important to be continually pushed outside our comfort zones.

Author Lamont Dozier is 78 and still writing.

“I get up every morning and write for an hour or two,” he says. “It’s why the good Lord put me here.”

Employers should allow older adult workers to modify their schedules in order to continue working. In the US, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations, such as start and end times, break rooms, even a cot to lie down on for a nap, and age discrimination is illegal.

To summarise, here are the main reasons why we should never “retire”:

  • Longevity
  • Social connections
  • Sense of purpose
  • Cognitive benefits
  • Happiness

**Note – This post was written by Family First staff writers.

Read more here.

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