Helping support older workers into retirement
Retirement is not necessarily the one-off event it used to be, but for many, it still marks a time of major change in later life.
Ali Hawker, Senior Evidence Manager, blogs about Ageing Better's work helping support older workers make the transition into retirement.
I still remember when my grandad retired, and the general hubbub around it. The celebrations surprised me as a small child, but then as a footballer for Ipswich Town, and later working for the club, much of his time and energy had centred around something central to his and my family’s identity – football.
For many people, work is a major source of meaning as well as social connections, and leaving is a significant transition and a reshaping of life. So it is welcoming to see the What Works Well-being Centre briefing on retirement and wellbeing published last month.
Amongst other things, it tells us that the way people retire is important for their wellbeing. Having some control over the timing and planning is important. Having a ‘bridge’ job, e.g. a different part-time role, can also have a positive effect. Also: the type of job people had before retirement affects their wellbeing afterwards. People with more satisfying jobs are more likely to experience a drop.
Employers can play a part in helping ensure people feel in control of their retirement process. And with the new target of a million more older workers, announced by Andy Briggs (the Business Champion for Older Workers alongside the Business in the Community Age at Work Leadership Team – of which he is the chair), we hope there will be more people going through a process of considering their options for retirement, rather than leaving the job market prematurely and without choice, through ill-health or inability to find a suitable job.
It is not unknown for businesses to offer some minimal guidance to their retiring employees, but this rarely goes beyond finance. But some businesses are changing this. Jaguar Land Rover have been working with Envisage to pilot a more holistic programme with staff aged over 50, who attend two days of workshops away from home, with the option of bringing their partner, and a chance to discuss a much wider range of issues than finance, including health, relationships and wellbeing and lifelong learning. Many people (and their employers) benefit from continuing to work, and as Envisage emphasises, the focus is on facilitating individuals to make the choices that are right for them at this time – rather than a narrow focus on ‘retirement’.
The Centre for Ageing Better wants to find out more about how people can make the most of this period of change – which is often not just about work but may involve multiple changes in someone’s life – such as changes in health or new caring responsibilities. Ageing Better is working with The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to do this, by evaluating a group of pioneering projects in this space and understanding people’s experiences of engaging with them. What is interesting about these projects is that they offer therapeutic approaches such as mindfulness, as well as tools and a space for people to discuss their plans for the future. Results from this evaluation will be shared this summer.
This is more than just supporting a few people who are at risk of a falling sense of wellbeing. Retirement can be an opportunity to pause and reflect and set new goals for the future. People with a more positive attitude to retirement living, on average, 4.9 years longer than those with negative attitudes. With around 700,000 people reaching state pension age each year, changes could have a wide impact.
The Centre for Ageing Better wants to find out more about what retirement support is currently available – through employers or otherwise.