Keeping us working into our dotage sounds like a sensible idea. It keeps us off the pension, maintains our physical and mental abilities, and business gets the value of our wisdom and experience.
There's a few problems with that.
While some people enjoy their work, for others it is truly a daily grind. They drag their weary bones out of bed each morning and groan: “Not this again.”
Work is something that gets in the way of the other things they would rather be doing, like spending time with the grandchildren, travelling the world, picking up the artists' brushes, or sleeping in.
It doesn't matter how much their managers try to make it fun and challenging, they are over this work malarkey and really don't give a damn.
The other side of the equation is that Australian business is over them, too. Author and HR consultant Mandy Johnson says of all the demographics she encourages her clients to hire, the over 55s is the hardest one to crack.
Johnson is credited with creating Flight Centre's hiring “machine”, and has just released her second book: Winning The War For Talent: How To Attract & Keep The People Who Make Your Business Profitable.
“If you look at the age group of most recruiters, they are in their late 20s or early 30s. They recruit people like themselves,” she says.
It would seem that, if employers were serious about hiring mature-age workers, they would ensure that they have some “grey-hairs” on every interview panel – just as they often insist on having women oversee the hiring process to ensure they get a better gender balance.
According to the latest research from Randstad, 57 is the ideal retirement age for most Australians, but only 28 per cent of workers say they are happy to work past the age of 62.
This is a bit awkward for many people, because the government is raising the pension age to 67. This means many people, without the wherewithall to support themselves, will be flogging themselves like dead horses for 10 years when they would rather have retired.
Most Australians believe they'll have to remain in the workforce until they are 63, according to Randstad.
Randstad group director Steve Shepherd says it could be a major challenge to keep mature-age workers satisfied, engaged and productive.
“The skills shortage in many sectors in Australia, combined with an ageing population, means Australian businesses need to work on solutions which will attract, engage and retain mature workers within their organisation,” he says.
Shepherd suggests employers consider offering flexible working arrangements; the opportunity to consult internally or lead projects; and the opportunity to conduct or receive coaching, mentoring or other learning and development programs.
Employees say the kind of things that may convince them to not throw in the towel include: a more relaxed working schedule (44 per cent), adaptable working hours (38 per cent), and a more friendly working atmosphere (33 per cent).
Fiona Smith writes on workplace issues for The Australian Financial Review.