I turned 59 at the weekend. One year to go until I hit the Big 60 – bring it on! Actually I almost wish I were sixty this year; whether it is 39, 49 or 59, it’s a year of waiting for a milestone birthday, the one with the nought on the end, the one that gets royally celebrated.
My next nought heralds concessionary rates at the cinema, free prescriptions (and believe me when I say that’s worth a bob or two) and cheaper public transport – and I’m not being ironic when I say that I can’t wait! Paradoxically I am too young for my state pension, free bus pass and winter fuel allowance as the government – in their wisdom – whipped those benefits away from my age group when they raised the retirement age for women [see Working ‘Til We Drop…]! That said, I have embarked on Operation Sixty – my plan to get fitter, healthier and feel better about myself before the big day. Turning sixty is inevitable but I plan to own it!
Unfortunately Mother Nature did her best to spoil the day and I spent this particular birthday stranded a top a Spanish mountain (www.notesfromgaucin.com) in a storm – celebrations cancelled – watching as the roads turn to rivers, thunder so close it makes the doors shake. But despite the birthday washout, in a week where I learnt of a good friend’s bad news I have so much to be thankful for.
The British government want us to work well into our sixties in order to save money on the pensions that we have all contributed to throughout our lives. I reach state pension age at 66 and estimate that by increasing the pensionable age from 60 to 66 I am set to lose out on £36,000 worth of state pension.
But do employers want us to carry on working until we are nearly 70? My recent experience suggests not…
I have been unemployed twice in the last decade – once in my early fifties and again in my late fifties – and I have noticed an incredible difference in my success rate at being shortlisted for interview. After being made redundant in 2009 I was unemployed for four months during which time I applied for 27 jobs and was shortlisted for over a third of them. This time round I have already been unemployed for a year and despite being tech-savvy and highly skilled with wide ranging experience, I have only been invited to interview once during that year.
When I talk to friends of a similar age, they tell me that they doubt they would get another job now if they found themselves on the job market. Although we are no longer required to put our age on our CV, it doesn’t take a genius to work out roughly how old you are by the date that you finished your education. Even staff at the Job Centre admit that ageism is rife in the workplace citing a range of reasons from an older worker not being the right ‘fit’ in an essentially young team to employers worrying that older workers will not be able to take direction from their younger line managers.
In previous jobs I have seen for myself how older workers (particularly women) are being slowly side-lined and marginalised. I once worked as part of a team of younger men, the youngest of whom took one look at me and clearly decided that I was old enough to be his mother and therefore could not possibly have anything of value to contribute.
Personally speaking, I’d love to retire but can’t afford to. I’m open to a change in direction and like so many people of my age have had enough of KPIs, SMART targets and ‘blue sky thinking’. I just want to do a good job and get paid fairly for it and if I have to, to carry on doing this until I’m nearly 70 – what about you?