Later Life & the Prospect of Work

One annual journey I make in January is to a Canadian Career Development conference in Ottawa – Cannexus.  This year I was asked to deliver a presentation on the subject of the “older worker”. For a start that phrase and others like it (e.g. “mature worker”) drives me crazy. Why? Because for years the phrase has carried weak or negative connotations.

So I reframed this to suit my touchy reaction to the title Opportunity Encounter! What is the Prospect of Work in later Life”. The recent heat around raising the age limit on Old Age Security in Canada has brought out the issue of the need to work longer to fend off the pangs of a “retirement” life. (Example headliner from Maclean’s Magazine – “Back to work, grandma”.)

But this is not news. What is news is that we need to get over the false sense of shock, that we even have to discuss it as news. Well maybe it’s shocking news to some who still figure that the “Freedom 55” plan is the goal. Then where?

My central point in this Ottawa conference message regards the prospect of work in later life was, that our definition of what work is and our relationship to work and the options, needs to be redesigned. On a person to person basis the experience of work in later life will mean something different. Grandma going back to work at the meat counter (as depicted in Maclean’s editorial page 4, Feb.13) isn’t the only frame.

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