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Our attitude to middle age, learning and work sucks - Can we change it?
What can we do to create a positive attitude to learning, retraining and second-act careers that isn't trivial or naff but instead inspires us all to adapt to the world we are ageing in?
G’day, folks. Yep - assumptive, sweeping statement. But am I wrong? I really would love to be.
This week, the government announced that they may increase Jobseeker payments for over-55s in the upcoming Federal Budget. While it may provide blessed temporary relief to those who are struggling financially, I think it’s a short term band-aid solution that doesn’t address the underlying issue - a need for fundamental generational change in our attitude to learning and working in the second half of life.
The proposed increase is expected to improve the financial situation of around 227,000 older Australians marginally, but it still is likely to leave them earning below 90% of the age pension, with no clear long-term approach to their working future other than basic labor market programs. These are the most poverty-stricken people of our generation, so the help is crucial to them avoiding homelessness. But we need to do more - because for every unemployed person drawing Jobseeker, there’s probably another two or three others (or perhaps more) feeling marginalised in their workplace, wondering how they avoid an early or forced career-end. The average age of retirement in this country at the last census was 55, yet, when surveyed, most people said they planned to retire at 65. 45% of people retired unexpectedly due to health issues, retrenchment, limited employability or ageism. That smells like a cultural problem to me.
We can’t just rely on temporary fixes, we need to talk more about the meaning of work in our second half of life, and find ways to support and encourage people facing ageist workplaces or skills limitations through the transition to a new career or into a fulfilling and available job so they don’t get stuck in unemployment, facing poverty and living on Jobseeker for extended periods, crushing their self-confidence.
It’s time to have an honest conversation about the industries that have jobs to fill and need workers desperately, alongside an earnest conversation about working in your 50s, 60s, and 70s, and what that could look like in an economy that desperately needs more workers. There’s 438,500 vacancies right now in this country! Surely we can help people navigate towards them.
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We can’t ignore the growing number of older Australians who are struggling to find meaningful work and make ends meet, or brush the problem under the carpet with welfare increases alone. We need to come up with a comprehensive plan to address the elephant in the room - our own mindsets and the revolting scourge of ageism.
Let’s talk about one of the biggest problems … our own attitudes as a generation.
Perhaps you’ve seen it, or lived it? Email me if you did - and want to talk about it for others to learn from at email@example.com.
“I’m too old to learn something new” or “she’s too old to learn something new”
Have you ever caught yourself saying, "I'm too old to learn something new - they’ll have to take me as I come"? It's a common thought that many of us have had at some point in our lives, anywhere from about 40 onwards, usually about ourselves. Well! I want you to notice those thoughts and correct yourself next time. Because the truth is, it's never too late to learn something new or pursue a new career path when the one you’re on looks like it might dry up or become undesirable. It just takes a conscious will to and the money to afford the training. And your attitude and resilience is often at the root of the problem.
Recently, I had to intervene in a conversation with a friend who was planning to move back to Australia with his family at the age of 65. His partner, a physiotherapist in her mid-50s, was hesitant about the move because her husband thought she was too old to go through the process of getting her accreditation to practice in Australia and they both felt she wouldn’t have time to make back her investment of time and money so she should just not work instead and take an early (almost forced) retirement. This remark made me feel a little frustrated - because it's missing the point. Fifty-five isn’t too old to learn more or skill back up. Being middle aged should not be a limiting factor in resetting your studies, pursuing a new career or learning something that enables you to keep your work-life moving forward into the second half of your life. Skills not being kept up to date can be severely limiting though. And by not getting her accreditation, my friend’s wife would not be able to pursue her former professional career at all here. Yet she loved it, and working in her profession in Australia before she retired would reap her so many social benefits, in addition to the financial ones.
It's important to remember that people are living longer these days, and retirement is no longer a one-way ticket to the end of life - it’s a period of joy and choice. And, in a modern retirement, many people are choosing to work well into their 60s, 70s, and even 80s. It's not only for financial stability, but also about the sense of purpose and fulfilment that comes with working in a profession you love or doing something you are passionate about. And that should not be overlooked.
If you're feeling hesitant about pursuing a new career or learning a new skill, or upskilling after middle-age take comfort in the fact that you're not alone. According to a study by Pew Research Center, more than half of those aged 50 and older say they have either changed or seriously considered changing their careers but hesitated. And the good news is that there are many resources available for people who are looking to learn something new or make a career change.
From online courses and mature age degrees to vocational programs and apprenticeships, there are countless opportunities for adults to continue their education and pursue a new career path. In fact, many employers are actively seeking older workers because of their experience, work ethic, and reliability. It might just take your proactive mindset to move into a new direction so those with available roles can see you.
So, the next time you catch yourself thinking that you're too old to learn something new or pursue a new career path, remember that age is just a number. Don't let it hold you back from changing direction so you can find greater fulfilment in your work. You are in the driver’s seat of your future - so use the pedals and drive forward, not round in circles, or heavens-forbid, backwards.
Until next week, make it epic!
Got something to say? Say it in our comments section…
Bec Wilson Xx
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Have you got something we should be talking about? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, last week’s newsletter saw me chat in an extended interview on radio, and drove lots of curiosity. It seems we all want to live longer, better quality lives. If you missed it …