What makes for fulfilling work in later life?

07 February 2017

The Centre for Ageing Better has published a new report, Fulfilling work: what do older workers value about work and why?

According to the report, by 2020 one in three workers will be over 50. While employment rates for this age group have been growing, there still remains a rapid falling off after the age of 55. Increasing the numbers of people over 50 who are in fulfilling work is good for society, good for business and most importantly good for people themselves.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, older workers value many of the same things as workers of other ages – such as making a meaningful contribution, social interaction and opportunities for learning and progression. Older workers are more likely to stay in work if they think their work matters, their employer supports them and their needs are taken seriously. However, for a variety of reasons, including age discrimination, this doesn’t always happen.

Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:

“Older workers want fulfilling work that is personally meaningful, flexible, and that provides social interaction including across generations. They expect to be treated equally and fairly as any other worker, with flexibility, opportunities for development, and access to lifelong learning.

People over the age of 50 are more likely to have caring responsibilities and health conditions. Older workers who have access to support find it easier to balance working and caring, are more loyal to their employer and are more likely to remain in work. Employers need to support carers and people with health conditions, and provide workplace adaptations for those who need extra support.”

Understanding what older workers want is the first step in helping employers create age-friendly workplaces. The findings from the research on what older workers value about work suggest a number of steps that employers can take to promote fulfilling work and create age-friendly workplaces. Employers can:

  • Support older workers to align their personal aspirations, job roles and organisational objectives
  • Ensure that older workers have variety in their work and opportunities to learn new skills
  • Give older workers as much autonomy as is possible in their work
  • Design roles for older people that maximise social contact and interaction
  • Communicate organisational values, goals and performance transparently, and provide opportunities for all staff to contribute their opinions and ideas
  • Create a positive and inclusive culture that treats age as seriously as other protected characteristics such as ethnicity, gender and disability
  • Apply effective and fair HR practices to all staff, including older workers
  • Ensure that training and development opportunities are open and available to all staff, regardless of age
  • Create opportunities for older workers to share their knowledge and experience with other colleagues
  • Offer occupational health and wellbeing support to staff of all ages
  • Promote flexible working positively and openly to all staff
  • Redesign job roles around the person if they have long term health conditions or other functional limitations
  • Offer secure contracts to both older and younger workers, wherever possible
  • Provide equal access to work adjustments for all working carers.

Read the full report here.