Action on employment

It’s hard to read a business publication currently without coming across an article discussing one of the key issues faced by the UK (and most, if not all, developed countries): how best to attract and retain the skills and life experiences of older people.

And with good reason. The UK faces a huge skills shortage, exacerbated by the large number of “boomers” either in or entering their 60s, and not helped by the “great retirement” that appears to have occurred during lockdown. The crisis in our care system has led to a large swathe of the working population giving up work to care for a family member. 

Many organisations are (sometimes belatedly) waking up to the fact that older workers can play a key role – not least by applying their people skills and learned experiences, making use of their contacts or by mentoring younger colleagues. They jettison this irreplaceable resource at their peril.

At the same time, the cost-of-living crisis is compelling many of this cohort to attempt to “unretire”. Equally, many older people simply love what they do, and the people they work with and for, and feel no need to retire.

It would not seem to be an insurmountable problem to bring employers and potential employees together, and supply would readily meet demand. 

Except that… all too often there are barriers to older people remaining in or returning to work – their health, mobility and other commitments for instance – and adapting working practices and the workplace itself can prove essential to enable employers to tap into this resource. Less frequently, but still an issue to be resolved, can be ageist attitudes.

Initiatives such as the Midlife Review can play a big part in squaring the circle. So too can flexible working, or allowing employees to change to a less demanding role. In fact, there are myriad approaches which could help. We want this Action Area to look at this issue in the round and explore ways in which the needs of both older people and employers can best be resolved, and share those ideas and strategies with policy makers, employers and older people themselves.

Get involved

To contribute towards the AAA’s Employment policy plans or to see your blogs, papers, research or news on these pages, email:

More reading

If you would like to read more about the Midlife Review, Steve Butler, CEO of Punter Southall Aspire and EngAgeNet director Tony Watts OBE have written a detailed guide to the review and its potential impact on work, wealth and wellbeing, available here:

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