With the retirement age in the UK set to rise, GILES BROWN asked people in Cumbria for their take on working into older age

Les Hanley, semi-retired procurement and finance professional and associate at the Centre for Leadership Performance 

Accessing the skills, knowledge and experience of those over the age of 50 requires a completely different way of thinking. I speak from experience, not only my own, but that of many of my friends and colleagues. 

I retired from a very enjoyable career of 40 years in the nuclear industry 23 years ago. I had reached a point in my life when I’d done it all, I was bored and there seemed little positive purpose stretching in front of me. 

In these 23 years I’ve had a brilliant retirement working with young people, older people, the criminal justice system, health, local government and SMEs. 

Things like flexible or part-time working would have made no difference to me. It would just have been more(less) of the same. 

What I wanted and needed was a new focus in life to look forward to, not days vegetating in front of the TV then dying of old age. I’m still busy, working on projects with three different organisations. As you get older, there are inevitably issues around health, but I believe that if you lead a positive, fulfilled and enjoyable life you don’t have time to be ill! 

In Cumbria:

Anna Lovett, employment lawyer at Burnetts Solicitors  

The UK has an ageing population and in light of the cost of living crisis, it is not unexpected that we also have an ageing workforce. This throws up a number of issues for employers and business leaders to consider. Firstly, it may hamper succession planning as older workers recognise they must work longer. Secondly, those wanting to move on from working life could lead to a loss of skills and a talent gap. 

Employers must be flexible in approaching matters with such workers to avoid stereotypes, age discrimination and losing talent. It is imperative businesses think outside the box and seek out options that will benefit the business and the individual, ensuring productivity and longevity. Flexibility is a key aspect. Older workers are even more likely to value flexible working than younger members of the workforce, particularly as more than half of workers have a long-term health condition by the time they reach the age of 60. 

Businesses should also be flexible about how they plan for succession. Employers should be utilising and harvesting the skills of their older workers whilst ensuring that training and development is accessible to all. The impact of technology on workplaces cannot be understated, and it is inevitable that workers will need to upskill or reskill at different stages of their working life. This becomes ever more demanding for people working into their late sixties and seventies. The progressive organisations that embrace their full workforce, regardless of age, will reap the rewards of engaging the older workforce, passing skills to the next generation and ultimately improving culture and productivity. 

In Cumbria:  

Chris Nelson, PR professional 

At 67, I’ve been running my own agency, Trafalgar Public Relations Ltd, based in Kendal since 2010. I moved to Cumbria in 2005 to run the communications function at BAE Systems Submarines. Prior to that I was a journalist and PR director of a multi-discipline advertising and marketing agencies in Manchester. 

I enjoy what I do, delivering the commitment and skills my clients demand. If I offered less I wouldn’t retain clients or win new ones, yet getting hired would be problematic – because of my age.

Age discrimination is endemic and unchallenged. Candidates need reassurance they will be judged solely on their ability. Raising the retirement age makes sense because people in their 60s are now fitter and healthier than ever before, and capable of making a valuable contribution to the workforce with huge experience and knowhow. But many skilled employees in Cumbria have good pension schemes and retire before the statutory age. To retain those skills or get them to return to work, they must feel appreciated.  Tax breaks for working past retirement age, flexible working and the ability to take longer unpaid holidays would all help. But importantly age cannot be an issue in selection or you write off a vital resource.