Changing workplaces as seniors work longer

Older workers in poor health could better fund their own treatments if they stayed in the workforce longer, a new report from National Seniors Australia has found.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts the number of people aged over 65 will double to 6.8 million people by 2040 leaving Australia with a shortage of younger workers to support the increasing demand for government spending on age pensions, aged care and health services for an ageing population.

As a result the government is looking at ways to promote self-sufficiency in retirement by encouraging people to continue working up to and beyond 65 years, even those who have chronic health conditions.

National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said aside from addressing age discrimination in employment, governments were exploring other ways to keep people working for longer.

“As Australia faces the ageing population, the reality is that people will need to work longer and workplaces will also have to adapt to employees who have chronic health conditions,” O’Neill said.

“Making the workplace more accessible to older people with chronic health conditions such as arthritis, back problems and diabetes is one way to encourage them to remain working for longer.

“Remaining in the workforce past the age of 65 has the potential to offset the high costs of poor health, which include treatment costs, changes to living arrangements and buying aids or equipment

The report found a range of interventions such as flexible working arrangements and workplace modifications can aid in promoting longer working lives and help people to remain self-sufficient in retirement.

The study found workers in their early 60s who had a chronic health condition had better retirement savings and wealth than those `who had quit work.

The report also pointed to the positive health benefits gained from remaining in the workforce, even for those with chronic health conditions.

“The results show that continuing to work may contribute to the improvement of a person’s health, particularly for those who have a chronic health condition,’’ O’Neill said.

“However support for people who are unable to work to the retirement age of 65 because of poor health must continue to be available,” he said.

The findings were released in the National Seniors Australia Productive Ageing Centre’s report, A widening gap: The financial benefits of delaying retirement.

O’Neill said there was likely to be a widening financial gap between Australians who continue to work up to the traditional retirement age of 65 and those who retire earlier.

“It’s clear that older people - and the taxpaying public - would be better off if there were more incentives and fewer barriers to remaining in the workforce,” he said.

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