In a world gone mad, many Baby Boomers are facing their own inner turmoil and rumble of unrest. South Africans live in a country where we battle with unemployment, retrenchment, low wages, crime, fraud, high cost of living, downsizing, mergers, transformation and skills shortages and more. Most, if not all of these issues, affect Baby Boomers.
YEI conducted a snap survey of baby boomers in their early sixties. The purpose of the snap survey was to try and find out which of these issues mostly troubles this age group. There were several. However, one of the key issues at the top of Baby Boomers’ minds is the issue of employment.
Most respondents agreed that they would love to look forward to being put out to pasture and be in a position to retire comfortably in their latter years. However, the reality is that they can’t – not yet – for a variety of reasons, mostly financial. This makes sense given that research shows that only 6% of South Africans can afford to retire.
The comments from some of the disgruntled sixty-somethings may be familiar to some of you:
• When the recruitment agent hears my age (a young and active 62), I never hear another word from them.
• It appears that once one hits the big 6-0, one becomes absolutely invisible and useless.
• I thought ageism in job applications was seen as unfair discrimination – am I correct?
• When I went freelance at 55, a creative placement agency told me to just give up any thoughts of working in advertising since I was ‘too old’.
• I have so much talent and energy going to waste.
• I have put out hundreds of CVs and never hear a word.
So what is the answer?
In a society such as ours, maybe it is time that we became a driving force that will not accept the existing retirement structures. In the dark ages, who was it that determined that 60 was a good stage of life to slow down and retire by the sea? Today, retiring in your 60s is surely an outdated and impractical approach to life. With longer life expectancy and a drive towards healthy living plus the need to fund our lifestyle and our medical aid, the “older” generation can still have a major impact on the economy of the country, and most of us in our sixties believe that we still have a good 15-20 years of productive contribution.
I wonder how many people who are actually retired are in good health and bored out of their minds? Be honest, how many retirees out there really wish they had something more constructive to do? I am sure that there are many who feel they have earned their retirement, and who are in a position to indulge in their chosen activities until check-out time, but I am pretty certain that there are equally as many folk who would prefer to keep on working in some kind of capacity, be it for financial reasons or even just to keep active, in a paid job or in a volunteering capacity.
It may be too late for some, but for those in their early 50’s, it would appear important to develop a mind-set which concentrates on a healthy lifestyle. We should also consider holding ourselves accountable for working and studying towards a third-life career in coaching, mentoring, new business ventures and/or consulting. The answer throughout one’s career and particularly latter career is to be enthusiastic, optimistic, passionate, flexible and relevant. One needs to read and reference the latest business thinking, be conversant in new technologies, develop an active lifetime learning mind-set for self-development, keep your skills current and be open to change.
If the opportunity to stay on in your company in order to impart your experience, knowledge and skills to the younger generation is not an option, consider the following.
World-wide, increasing numbers of baby boomers are becoming entrepreneurs, starting their own businesses and becoming franchise holders. There is a new trend that shows an increase in older people becoming involved in entrepreneurial activities, and in South Africa, a new entrepreneurial spirit has arisen. The Chamber of Commerce have welcomed the news, saying that the trend shows that South Africans are displaying innovative skills. Over-50s/60s can push beyond the economic hardship and brand their own ideas.
Let’s face it – most over-60s have the right work ethic, the staying power, the skills, knowledge and experience to make something work. This kind of entrepreneurship also leads to creating more employment. The trend is that the majority of entrepreneurs will in turn hire at least three younger individuals.
Sounds good to me, what do you think?