Australia, like many other countries, is currently considering raising the retirement age. This is a very simplistic response to the fact that we continue to live longer, making us a perceived burden in terms of increased pensions. No one amongst the decision makers seems to have realised that this policy will lead to one of 2 solutions; either we leave those who can’t get work to forage on the streets (which is already happening to a few older people) or we give them unemployment benefits. Either solution leads to increased costs in terms of reduced physical and/or mental health so that in fact there won’t be much saving.
A much more intelligent solution, an apparently unavailable government approach, would be to analyse the situation and come up with an approach from this new angle. My own research showed several aspects of the problem of older workers. From the work point of view, supply isn’t currently meeting demand, both for those already in the workforce who can’t get enough work and those who would like to work but can’t get any. A lot of this springs from myths about older workers (not loyal, can’t be retrained, more likely to be sick etc.) which were debunked years ago but not acknowledged as myths by employers. It means that there is already an untapped workforce in this group. Why not promote the special skills of older workers such as experience and loyalty?
Many older people feel that they have talents and ideas which have never been fully utilised. This would be a wonderful opportunity to give them the chance, and encouragement, to follow their ideas. Those that are successful would not only create work for themselves but possibly others as well.
The current proposed solution is not very intelligent. It is very frustrating that so many of our politicians don’t seem to be very bright. I guess this is to be expected given that the only requirements for the job are to belong to a political party and to be able to face, and speak to, an audience which on occasions may be hostile. Neither of these require anything in the way of education or real training.
What can we do about the proposed situation? Very little I suspect. The politicians don’t listen to us on the grounds that we older people are all perceived to be senile and the two organisations which are, I believe, given government grants to represent us, don’t seem themselves to believe in employing older people. Hopefully any fertile ground we can create through our protests may help those who come after us. If it takes as long for our potential contributions to society to be recognised as those of women let’s not hold our breaths. Although it would ease the government’s problems if we did!