Freedom 75?

Older workers not ready to retire

Date published: 2008-02-25 1:19:48 PM

At 64 years of age, Margaret Atwood is at the prime of her literary life; Ronnie Hawkins, 69, is on a raucous concert tour; and Paul Martin, 66, is running the country.

Obviously none of these senior citizens is ready to retire.

“There’s still a lot of life—not to mention labour—past age 65,” says Donna Dunning, a psychologist, author and career counselor, who aims to challenge our conceptions of older workers.

“Many people expect workers in their 50s and 60s to start winding down their careers. But that just doesn’t fit the reality of many people,” says Dunning, a PhD student at the University of Victoria.

“We’re living a good 10 to 15 years longer now,” Dunning says, “and at age 65 a lot of people still have the ability, not to mention the need, to keep working.”

A recent study by Statistics Canada reports almost half of workers in their 50s and 60s who retired from full-time careers during the mid-1990s were working two years later.

“Most people I interview who are coming up to retirement are looking for some way of using their skills and knowledge to generate income—even if that means doing something totally different. They see retirement as a stepping-stone; they certainly don’t see their work ending,” she adds.

Dunning‘s research will look at the reality of older workers and how their potential can be better realized. She hopes her research will help career counselors, employers and government agencies better understand and put to use the skills and experience of older workers.

“My sense is that there is a huge talent pool out there, and as a society we could be much more imaginative in how we use that resource.”

Donna Dunning’s doctoral research on the career needs of older workers is supported through SSHRC’s Canada Graduate Scholarships program.