Retirement can wait – it’s never too late for a career change

Jan 21, 2020
Older Aussies are following their passions and gaining dream jobs later in life. Source: Getty

Finding a new job in your 60s is no easy feat, but older Aussies aren’t letting anything get in the way of following their dreams, as later-life career change becomes an increasingly popular option amongst the boomer demographic.

Instead of preparing for early retirement, boomers are jumping back on the employment bandwagon – not because they have to, because they want to. They have the health, stamina and mental preparedness to kick goals, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

The Secrets and Lies report compiled by WPP AUNZ found work still plays a major role in the lives of over-50s, with 69 per cent believing ‘age has never been less relevant’. In fact, 61 per cent of the 2,000 respondents said they’re living the best years of their lives, with many adding that they have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense.

The study found over-60s aren’t afraid to try out new things, explore their passions and chase their dreams. They’re working, travelling and actively building their savings, with no desire to slow down any time soon. And that’s certainly what the Starts at 60 community has to say about it too.

Jacqui Lee said she had multiple career changes in the two decades before retiring at the age of 70, going from retail to the health industry, with the help of some study later in life.

“At 47 I worked selling fashion, then decided to become an occupational therapy assistant,” she said. “I did a year of study and work, gained a certificate and loved the job. I was 48 when we moved to Australia and I found work in two weeks doing home care with older people. Then at 64, I trained again in personal care and dementia care. I easily adapted to and enjoyed the study. It’s never too late!”

Jeni Robinson also embraced change, first swapping her role as a school secretary to become a court reporter at the age of 46, and then 11 years later becoming a full-time author. She has since published two books with another in progress.

Others have used the opportunity of a job change to further explore the world or their own country. Lillian Whymark spent much of her life working in administration positions, but in her late 50s had a complete turnaround and decided to purchase a block of land with her partner and breed horses. They moved from New Zealand’s North Island to South Island, where they spent 13 years “living the dream”.

“We transported several Brood Mares, two cats, one dog and a goat, along with all the household furniture — quite an undertaking,” Lillian said. “I have never worked so hard in all my life, but what satisfaction.”

Meanwhile, Ann Darioli swapped office jobs for a life in the outback. As a 55th birthday present to herself, she drove up to outback Western Australia from southern Victoria and spent a year there helping set up an arts centre. It was a success and is still operating today.

“I suppose that I thought my life was into its final stretch and I wanted to do something very different,” Ann said. “I’m so glad that I did as I have wonderful memories from that time and still keep in touch with a couple of people from the community.”

However, experts say there needs to be more done to support boomers who want to remain in the workforce, warning they might risk being forced out of their jobs before they’re ready if employers don’t work to redesign positions to suit their needs.

According to a recent report, if employers continue on their current path of penalising rather than encouraging older workers, the number who will need to be supported by other workers could rise by an average of 40 per cent by 2050 across developed nations, including Australia.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) research said there needs to be greater flexibility in working times and better working conditions in order to promote higher workplace participation at all ages. The report also called out ageism in the workplace, especially around recruitment and promotion, and said this must be addressed promptly in order to create an age-diverse workforce.

Rachael Palmer, an organisational psychologist at Transitioning Well, said it’s not about promoting or singing the praises of older people over the younger generation, but enforcing measures to level the playing field. She said job redesign is a key factor in assisting those in all areas of employment.

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Have you had a later life career change? What made you want to change directions?

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