How older staff can deal with Catch-55

Writing recently (Sep 4, 2013) in the Financial Times, award-winning business journalist Michael Skapinker offers some sound advice on how older workers can protect themselves from ‘the threat posed by younger employees’.

The gist of his article is that older workers should be proactive in fighting what has been termed ‘catch 55’ (older workers needing/wanting to work while employers want to replace them with younger staff).

His suggestions include:

Brazening it out – demonstrate your awareness of age discrimination legislation e.g. by asking what percentage of staff are over 50. This could be enough to see managers ‘retreat in fear’.

Becoming an expat – younger people with family commitments aren’t always keen on foreign postings, whereas older people may have fewer ties and a greater sense of adventure.

Taking a paycut – not for the same amount of work – but by, for example, reducing your week to four days, thereby cutting wage costs by 20%.

Branching out – developing other activities and interests in order to develop opportunities (some of them paying?) and a fulfilling life outside work.

Keeping fit – this will not only help you remain healthy it could also keep you looking younger and more alert.

The overall message seems to be that, as at any stage of your career, the more determination and initiative you demonstrate the greater your chances of success.

Skapinker writes periodically on age-related issues – he’s well-worth following.

At last, some evidence: older workers as productive as other employees

A new study by Age UK has found that older workers are as productive as their younger counterparts.

Research carried out by Essex Business School, on behalf of the charity  found that there was little evidence to back up disparaging but engrained stereotypes of older workers when it comes to productivity, health, commitment and flexibility.

They found that despite assumptions made by many employers, older workers are motivated and as willing to work as flexibly as younger workers.

They also found that while there was evidence of decline in some physical attributes in some, but not all, older workers,  there was little sign of a decline in overall productivity as older workers compensated for declines with skills and experience.

For further information see

Upper age limit for jury service to be raised

Confirmation that older people have a great deal of life experience and, these days, generally remain astute, savvy and mentally agile well into later life.

Working over 50 is nothing if you live to be 100

Something to think about?

Over 50s – Introduction to Self-Employment – Glasgow

The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (PRIME) in partnership with Glasgow Libraries and Business Gateway is pleased to announce that it is running an introduction to self-employment in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

30 July 2013

Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow

G3 7DN

10.00am – 12.00am

This is an introductory course that would suit anyone who is considering setting up their own business. Covering a range of topics, such as the benefits of starting a business and how to create a business idea, this course will help you decide if becoming self-employed is the right option for you.

If you are already registered with PRIME then for this event please email;, and advise me at

For additional information and to register go to:

The Ready for Ageing Alliance – a new charity sector coalition

We note and welcome a new coalition, The Ready for Ageing Alliance, formed to increase the pressure on Government and all political parties to face up to the major changes and challenges from our rapidly ageing society.

Like other commentators we wish it every good fortune but we have reservations. Some of those reservations have been adequately expressed elsewhere and we link you below to Dick Stroud’s excellent blog 50-Plus Marketing on the subject.

We have long been asking for some statesmanlike approach to the subject of growing older but have seen very little so far. Indeed only this week we have seen major press coverage devoted to the exceedingly trivial issue of who should or should not receive free bus passes and TV licences. This does no credit to the media nor to the politicians involved but does highlight the very poor level of debate currently taking place.

Although the participating bodies in this new alliance are all much esteemed they do, in my opinion, have a fatal weakness – they are mainly concerned with today’s existing old, not tomorrow’s. As such they do not feature all that highly in most people’s consciousness.

The real way to get people involved in ageing issues is to make today’s young realise that this is coming for them, like it or not, and any change now will be for their benefit. And if they want improvement they must take personal and collective responsibility for their futures. Therefore, I would argue for a somewhat different mix of pressure groups to extend the sphere of influence.

Unready for ageing

Although there is nothing new in the House of Lord’s “Ready for Ageing” report published yesterday, it is a useful summary of the issues which our society now faces in relation to changing demographics. And, as the report highlights, it is not just society’s problem, or the government’s, but one about which we must all take greater personal responsibility.

The report recommends, amongst much else, that the 2015 government establishes two Commissions – one to consider the financial aspects of our ageing population and the other to focus on health and social care. However, having pointed out elsewhere in the report that employer and societal attitudes – and lack of flexibility – continue to impact older people’s ability to work longer, I believe there should also be a third Commission to focus urgently on this aspect.

We need a change in attitudes overall to ensure that older people aren’t seen as dependent, needy and a liability but are recognised for what the majority are – active, contributing citizens. Let’s hope that this report leads to action – and isn’t just yesterday’s news.

The report can be downloaded here: 

It can also be browsed here:

Older worker stereotypes overturned

A new academic study confirms that almost all negative generalizations about employees over the age of 40 are untrue.

A recently published article, Evaluating Six Common Stereotypes about Older Workers with Meta-Analytical Data by Thomas W.H. Ng (University of Hong Kong) and Daniel C. Feldman (University of Georgia) presents the findings of an analysis of around 400 studies of older workers’ performance.

The paper finds that nearly all negative stereotypes about this group are unfounded and suggests, as the number of older workers continues to increase, that managers should reconsider widely-held misconceptions that often lead to age discrimination.

The study examines six of the most common and damaging stereotypes: i.e. that, compared with younger workers, older employees are (1) less motivated, (2) less willing to engage in training and career development programs, (3) more resistant to change, (4) not as trusting, (5) more likely to experience health problems that affect their work, and (6) more vulnerable to work–family conflicts.

The authors found empirical support for only one of those stereotypes. Older workers, on average, are indeed less likely to engage in career development—an attitude that relates, at least in part, to training programs designed for younger employees. The five other stereotypes were unfounded.

For further information, see

The power of the ballot box

Sometimes it is very easy to think that we are the only nation in the world suffering from the various dilemmas now confronting us, in terms of, for example; economic woes, an ageing population, pension and care costs, youth unemployment, obesity, drinking problems and healthy living in general. And this list is by no means exhaustive.

But these issues are global, affecting just about every developed nation and many lesser developed nations as well. And the ways in which other countries are attempting to grapple with the situation are as many and varied as there are nations. We should, therefore, look elsewhere and see whether we like the way things are going and whether they provide a good blueprint for us here.

One particularly pernicious avenue of discussion here, both in the media and amongst politicians (notably of the “two brain” variety), is to set “the young” versus “the old”, as though one camp can only gain if the other camp loses. This is no way to solve such problems, especially if it leads to the actual polarisation of society.

The following extract is taken from a recent report from concerning the political situation in Holland:

“Fears that pensioners are being hard hit by the government’s austerity measures continue to boost support for the 50Plus party, according to a new opinion poll.

The TNS-Nipo poll says the fledgling party would win 24 seats in the 150-seat parliament if there were a general election tomorrow. That would make it the second biggest party in parliament, behind the VVD Liberals on 28. The party debuted in parliament at the September general election and has two seats.

The Labour party (PvdA), which currently partners the VVD in the coalition government, would be third with 23. The Labour leader caused a stir earlier this week when he said the over-50s are the richest group in the country.

The TNS-Nipo poll puts the Socialists in fourth place on 19 seats and the anti-immigration PVV fifth with 16.”

Despite an attempt a few years ago to set up an “older persons” party in the UK (which appears to have sunk without trace) we must hope that British democracy is better than this. Just look above at who came fifth in the poll, only a few seats behind!

The Psychology of Retirement


Milne_12 (chosen).indd

These days the line between work and retirement is increasingly difficult to define. How, when and in what manner it occurs is less certain than in the past. Its very meaning has changed with many people continuing to work even though they claim to have ‘retired’.

And, despite its inevitability in one form or another, many individuals still fail to plan adequately for its arrival. For example, a new report from financial services company MGM Advantage claims that “three in five (60%) over 55s admit to being unprepared for retirement”.

Thus the relevance to those interested in older workers of a valuable and interesting new book: The Psychology of Retirement – coping with the transition from work*. It is written by Derek Milne who retired as the Director of the Newcastle University Doctorate in Clinical Psychology training programme in 2012.

Unlike most other guides to retirement which tend to deal with the practicalities of growing older outside of full-time work, this enlightening handbook tackles the unspoken issue that many people find the transition to a happy and fulfilling retirement difficult and stressful.

In response, the book draws on proven psychological coping strategies to aid the process of coping with retirement, ensuring that individuals are able to gain a better understanding of the realities of retirement and maximize their enjoyment of a key period of life.

Incorporating the author’s personal experience, real-life case studies, the latest research and well-established theories, The Psychology of Retirement provides many insights and much food for thought concerning the nature of retirement and the new challenges and opportunities it represents.

* published by Wiley (February 2013).

MGM’s Retirement Nation Report 2012:

The flat rate pension finally arrives.

At long last, and after many years of stalling, we are now close to having a flat rate, single tier state pension system. There has obviously been much coverage in the media and from various charity and support groups.

On the plus side they have highlighted how this will simplify an antiquated and largely unintelligible system so complicated and intrusive that many potential beneficiaries have chosen not to claim what they are entitled to. They have also drawn our attention to the transitional arrangements which are necessary and in which some people will appear to be winners and some losers (against expectations rather than against fact?). This is fine and necessary to make sure that in the changeover process all obvious inequities are dealt with and corrected.

As with all political initiatives such as this, first we get the good news regarding the move to a flat rate pension and then the not-so-good news that National Insurance contributions will have to increase to fund some of it. This does rather take the icing off the cake.

More worrying, though, are the views, already being expressed, that firstly the state pension is not enough (which we know or should do) and, linked to this, that not everyone should get this flat rate pension, that is a return to means testing. I had thought that for once, at long last, people had started to look at our demographic shift and its implications in a more statesmanlike fashion devoid of entrenched short term party politics – but it seems this is a very optimistic hope.

Such views totally miss the long term point of the changes. The flat rate state pension will never be enough on its own unless we tax people out of existence. However, by underpinning personal savings with this pension and then not confiscating it once individuals start to save for themselves we can give people the responsibility, the scope and the encouragement to plan themselves for their own financial well-being according to their own needs, choices and timeframes. And in what manner they choose, be it pensions, properties or direct investment.

A great step forward in upskilling for older workers?

Interesting and potentially exciting news at the end of 2012 that a group of established UK learning institutions are joining forces to enter the world of MOOC provision. For the uninitiated (which, until reading this article, included me) MOOCs are ‘massive open online courses’ – training courses that typically free, conducted online and open to anyone who wants to participate

In 2013 12 UK universities will be getting together to form a new company that will offer the online courses – under the brand name of FutureLearn Ltd. The universities are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Exeter, King’s College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Southampton, St Andrews and Warwick, along with UK distance-learning organization The Open University (OU).

Several U.S. universities including Harvard and MIT are already involved with MOOCs as are a few other UK universities but this will apparently be the first large group to set up a dedicated MOOC business located in the UK.

Details of courses and operations are yet to be finalised but the OU said FutureLearn will be open to students in the UK and internationally. It will:

  • bring together a range of free, open, online courses from leading UK universities, that will be clear, simple to use, and accessible.
  • draw on the OU’s expertise in delivering distance learning and pioneering open education resources to underpin a unified, coherent offer from all of its partners.
  • reimagine class-based learning rather than trying to replicate it online – using the potential of digital technologies.

Commenting on the development, Martin Bean, the Vice Chancellor of The Open University said: “MOOCs represent an enormous development in higher education, one that has the potential to bring about long-lasting change to the HE sector.” 

The potential role of MOOCs in ongoing learning and upskilling, particularly for older workers is theoretically vast and could be a key tool for helping people stay in work for longer. Let’s hope that this is borne in mind by those designing and marketing the courses.