’75 is the new 65′: How these Australians stay engaged and happy at work later in life 

As Australians live longer and healthier lives, more people are retiring later.  

But at the same time, experts say workers are increasingly burning out and wanting to call it quits early.

So, what’s the secret to enjoying work well into your later years, and what keeps older workers motivated to stay in the workforce beyond the average retirement age of 65?  

These Australians are bucking the trend and reveal how they stay connected.

Barry: The freight man

Barry Foreman is not the retiring type.

The 77-year-old freight handler from Victor Harbour in South Australia loads and restacks packages like a Tetris whiz in a warehouse in Adelaide’s western suburbs.

Barry Foreman leans on a box inside a Fedex warehouse

Barry has no plans to quit any time soon.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

He’s worked 55 years straight, the majority of years clocked up as a truck driver at TNT and its subsidiaries before the company was acquired by FedEx in 2016.

“At my age, some folks might think it’s time to slow down,” he said.

“The truth is I thrive working alongside these young folks, their energy is contagious.”

A photo from the 70s of Barry standing near a lorry

At 77 years old, Barry Foreman is not thinking about retirement yet. (Supplied)

Barry is part of a growing number of Australians working well beyond the average working life of 64 and opting for “semi-retirement”.

Barry was in full-time work until December 2023, but now only works one or two shifts a week at FedEx’s Adelaide hub and has no plans to quit.

“There’s definitely no use-by date [on me],” he said.

“Luckily I’m still fit and healthy and can manage the workload.”

Barry credited his longevity at work to being surrounded by a supportive team.

“What really matters most is the respect we have for each other,” he said.

“Just being treated with kindness and professionalism, regardless of age.”

A sign of the Barry Foreman boardroom at Fedex Adelaide

Barry is a well-loved and sought-out member of the team.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Barry said most of his friends have now retired, except his family doctor, who is the same age.

“There are quite a few people working well into their 80s who are still going strong,” he said.

“There would be a lot of jobs that have been harder than my job, like bricklayers and carpenters. I wouldn’t like to be one of those in my 70s and still going.

“75 is the new 65 … that’s what people are saying.”

Taari: The working granny

For Taari Rapata, grandmother of seven, working beyond the age of 50 has a different set of challenges.  

She describes herself as “one of the oldies in the office” and at the peak of her management career working for Melbourne-based yoghurt manufacturer, Chobani.

A middle aged white woman with brown hair holding a baby

Bodhi is Taari Raputo’s seventh grandchild, but he’s the first for which she didn’t have to take annual leave to help with childcare.(ABC News: Patrick Stone)

Taari has been able to tap into Chobani’s grandparents leave policy, which allows three additional days off per birth on top of regular annual leave.

It’s given her extra days to support her daughter-in-law and bond with her grandson.

“[With my first six grandchildren] I would have been ringing in my lunchbreak, checking in on how the baby is going,” she said.

“Now I’m like, ‘I’ve got the day off, I’m coming over!’

“I’ve got the time to go to a maternal health appointment with my daughter-in-law or I can just hold the baby while mum has a shower.”

A middle aged white woman with brown hair is seen through a window holding a baby

Taari Raparto says grandparents leave has helped give her more flexibility while she stays in the workforce.(ABC News: Patrick Stone)

Chobani is one of about 30 Australian companies that are now offering grandparent leave as part of more family inclusive workplaces.

“Most of my colleagues in marketing are at the parent stage, not grandparents,” Taari said.

“It is encouraging for people who are staying in the workforce longer to have that flexibility as grandparents.”

Chobani’s general manager, Chris Eaton, said the policy was introduced to better reflect the demographics of the business, with almost 30 per cent of employees aged over 50.

“Ultimately it helps to build a connection that people have with the business and lead to people wanting to stay longer.”  

Graham: The career changer

Graham Cox worked for almost seven decades straight.  

From his first paid work as a telegram delivery boy, aged 14 years, he has since clocked up half a dozen different careers over 68 working years.

“It’s been a while since I’ve written a resume,” he said.

An elderly white man with glasses. He's standing outside with work wear on

Graham Cox, 82, only retired two years ago.(ABC News: Shauna Foley)

After spending his teen years working for the postmaster general, he turned to delivery work, then onto repairing photocopiers.

Later in his 20s he became a qualified cabinet maker.  

“Fine, accurate detail work has been one of the things I really like to do,” he said.

After that, he went into the ambulance service.

However, an undiagnosed illness, which later turned out to be coeliac disease, saw him drop down to 40kgs and physically unable to work.

After specialist medical intervention, Graham recovered and worked as a paramedic across mining operations in New South Wales and Queensland.  

But another career change was in the wind. He retrained as a high-school teacher in technical trades, where he felt he has made the biggest difference in his working life.

He taught at a number of high schools across NSW over 30 years.  

An elderly white man standing outside with work wear on. He's working on a car

Graham Cox had six career changes across seven decades.(ABC News: Shauna Foley)

Now 82 and living in the NSW Riverina, Graham officially retired two years ago.

He said the key to enjoying work later in life was being open to new experiences and listening to people, young ones in particular.

“I was the oldest one on staff and we’d have meetings and they’d talk about all this new technology,” he said.

“All this texting and abbreviation that young people would come up with, other teachers wouldn’t have a clue – like what does ‘LOL’ stand for that young people put in their text messages?

“I was the oldest one on the staff and I knew what it meant.”

Graham said he became a fatherly figure to many and felt valued by many of his former students.

An elderly white man standing outside with work wear on

Graham Cox worked across a number of industries in his decades in the workforce.(ABC News: Shauna Foley)

“Kids would rock up after hours and want bass speakers installed in their car, and I would help them do that,” he said.  

“Some of them thought of me as a cranky old person, but I always wanted to treat people fairly.”

‘Too many workers are burning out’

Data shows a growing trend towards Australians retiring later.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show the average age people are retiring has increased from 57.4 in 2004-05 to 64.8 in 2022 with the overall average from the last 20 years sitting at 61.4. 

ABS head of labour statistics, Bjorn Jarvis, said it tells us more people are working later in life.

“Not to a dramatically greater extent, but enough that it is lifting those average ages.”

Source link