As Scotland’s population ages and the state pension retirement age rises, a study has found that older people who are not in employment are less likely to feel “worthwhile”. Michael Alexander reports.
When the UK Government announced in July that the state pension age would be rising from 67 to 68 in 2037, and with the possibility of further age rises in future, it left millions of people under the age of 47 wondering if they will ever get to retire.
In contrast to the fortunes of many from the baby boomer generation who seem to enjoy endless holidays and mortgage free lifestyles, the reality of shrinking pension pots, rising living costs and job insecurity means that younger workers face the prospect of having to pay more for less – with little guarantee of what returns there might be at the end, whenever that end might be.
But according to new research, retirement – if workers are not run into the ground first! – might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Glasgow University researchers have found that older people not in employment are less likely to feel “worthwhile”.
The study of more than 1,500 men and women aged 55 to 70 in the west of Scotland found that being in work provides individuals with a sense of “value to society”.
But this diminishes after leaving the workplace even through retirement, the study found.
The study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found those who are retired, home-makers, unemployed, or not working because olderof sickness or disability are more likely to feel their status results in poorer social and mental engagement and lower self-esteem.
They were more likely to report feeling lonely and isolated and less likely to report being sociable, making use of their abilities and feeling worthwhile.
The authors wrote: “These results support the notion that, in addition to financial rewards, employment provides individuals with a sense of belonging and value to society, which diminishes after leaving the workplace even when this exit is through a potentially positive route such as retirement.”
With people expected to stay in work for longer and Scotland’s population ageing, it’s certainly an issue that’s here to stay.
The 2011 Census figures showed that there are now more people aged 65 and over than under-15 in Scotland and the proportion of older people in the workforce is increasing.
Scottish Government labour statistics for 2016 show that those in the 50-64 and 65+ age groups are more likely to be retired or long term sick with just 68.8% and 9.1% of the workforce respectively in work.
Yet barriers such as employer discrimination, obsolete skills and competition from younger workers persist.
Dundee Age Concern, based at Caird Avenue, has been providing day care for older people in the city for 70 years. Clients are mainly over 80 and enjoy light entertainment,activities and often just a blether with their peers.
But senior manager Patrick Delargy says it’s significant that a number of volunteers who come in to help are in their late 60s and early 70s.
“You find that a lot of retired people who are fit and active still have a lot to give, so coming here to volunteer gives them that sense of purpose,” he said, adding that questions remain about the realities of expecting people to work indefinitely into older age – especially if they work in physical labour where that might just not be possible.
It’s a view shared by a former manual worker in Fife, now aged 67, who asked not to be named. He said: “I couldn’t wait to retire in my late 50s and have thoroughly enjoyed going on holidays and spending more time with the grand children.
“But retirement is pointless if you don’t have your health. It also helps if you’ve got a good pension. Unfortunately not everyone does!”
Brian Sloan is managing director of Age Scotland, the leading charity representing older people in Scotland and supporting their rights and interests.
He said:“There are many reasons why some older people have poorer social and mental engagement, including loneliness and isolation, but for far too many older people their inability to continue in employment when they want to is a major contributing factor.
“Age Scotland believes it is vital that there is more support for older employees in Scotland’s workplaces, and great advantages for employers who seize this agenda.
“With an ageing population and increases in the state pension age, more people will be working longer.
“Over 90,000 people over 65 are now in employment in Scotland, double the number in 2004. “Population projections suggest that the number of people above state pension age in Scotland may increase by nearly 30% by 2040, but the working age population by only 1%.
“For these and many other reasons there is an economic and social imperative to provide more support to older workers, but also huge opportunities as well.
“Harnessing and valuing the skills and experiences of older workers is not only good for them and their wellbeing but their employers too.
“That is why Age Scotland is working with a wide range of employers to ensure they can better support their older employees.
“For older people who are not working, staying active in their communities can be key to boosting self-esteem and well-being.
“Many find that volunteering isn’t just a great way to ‘give back’, but it also benefits their physical and mental health.
“Getting involved with projects such as Men’s Sheds or local befriending groups can also tackle isolation and give people a sense of belonging.”