Are we entering the age of no retirement?
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 08:30

The age we can access the pension will rise to 70 by 2035. Many of us are living longer and healthier lives so the expectation and reality is that most of us will work on later in life.

But that’s not always easy as age discrimination, health issues, caring responsibilities and attitudes towards growing older often get in the way. Many older Australians need to work and want to work but are being forced out of the workplace and finding it hard to get back in.

This week Insight examines how we remain engaged, relevant and productive at work as long as we want to and need to.

We meet 86-year-old lab assistant Pam Robson who works full-time plus overtime and energetic 84–year-old gymnastics teacher Doreen Wilson, both women are keeping old age at bay with good humour, tireless energy and sense of purpose.

We hear from former TV host and singer Mark Holden about his humiliating sacking from Australian Idol in 2007 that led to him reinventing himself in his late 50s as a barrister.

And at an impressive 103, scientist Dr David Goodall tells us why he’ll keep working until his last breath.

This week, Insight explores what it takes to stay in a changing workforce.


Presenter: Jenny Brockie 

Producer: Alex Tarney 

Associate producer: Madeleine King 

Cadet: Jarni Blakkarly 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Welcome everyone, good to have you here. Pam, what sort of work do you do? 

PAM:  I work at Douglass Hanly Moir Pathology lab at Macquarie Park. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what does that work involve? 

PAM:  I get the blood in a sample bag and a referral and I enter it into a computer and then send the tubes off like on a mechanical belt. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What kind of hours do you work? 

PAM:  I work from 3.30 till 11.30 at night with the exception of Monday and Thursday I start at 12 till 11.30 pm. 

JENNY BROCKIE: 12 till 11.30? 

PAM:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Two days a week? 

PAM:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Out of five. So you're full time, more than full time for them? 

PAM:  Mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you get the job? 

FARIDA:  It's been a long story. 

PAM:  Um, I was divorced and I had a riding school with my husband and a volunteer who used to help us, when I got dumped, she got a job for me at Hanly Moir. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Dumped from the job or dumped by your husband? 

PAM:  No, dumped by my husband. 


PAM: I'm a dumpee. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're a dumpee, okay.  So how old were you when you were a dumpee? 

PAM:  62, something like that, maybe. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you had to find a job? 

PAM:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:   How old are you now? 

PAM:  86    Four years off 90. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Four years off 90, okay? 

PAM:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Farida, you work with Pam? 

FARIDA:  Side by side 17 years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So is it any different to you, for you working with someone who's 86 than it would be working with someone your own age? 

FARIDA: Oh, no, no. We are just click.  We first met and that's it and we travel together. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You travel together? 

FARIDA: Yeah. 

PAM:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You go on holidays together? 


PAM:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what's the workplace like then, is there a real diversity of ages in your workplace or is it mostly people of a similar age? 

FARIDA:  Mostly young people. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what's that like for you Pam? 

PAM:  I feel like one of them.  

FARIDA: Yeah, we treat her like one of us. 

PAM:  Yeah. I mean I've got a very dark sense of humour and I work with a whole lot of uni students and they all have dark senses of humour. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That’s, that’s the Christmas Party, right? 

PAM:  I blame that photo on Farida. 

FARIDA: That's a good one. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long do you plan to keep working? 

PAM:  I have no, no vision of how long I would work. In the beginning it was a necessity. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is it still a necessity? 

PAM:  No, I just love being there. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how long do you plan to keep working do you think? 

PAM:  I have a supervisor who puts her hands over her ears when I say my ideal way to go would be for over the loud speaker system for it to be could you take a body bag down to car park B2 because Pam's kicked the bucket and could you give Guy and Chrissie a ring and tell them to come and pick up her car. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Carmena, you work there too and you’re shaking your head. Why are you shaking your head? 

CARMENA:  I've already heard this, I'm like no, the first time I heard it I'm like no, not hearing it, don't want to hear that, that's not how you're going to go Pam. 

JENNY BROCKIE: And how old are you? 

CARMENA:  I'm 24. 

JENNY BROCKIE: So what's it like working alongside an 86 year old? 

CARMENA:  It's fun.  Like you get different conversations and she tells you about her life and like all the stories you hear, she's different to I would talk about with my friends who are the same age as me so you just kind of get a whole lot of wisdom and experiences from her and it's just wonderful.


DAVID:  Yeah, hello. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Hello, you're 103? 

DAVID:  I'm afraid so, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're a scientist? 

DAVID:  Yes, that's right. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you still go into…

DAVID:  Ecologist. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ecologist? 

DAVID:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you still go into the office four days a week?  

DAVID:  Yes, that's right. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  At Edith Cowan University in Perth? 

DAVID:  Yes, that's right. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You work in an honorary capacity there? 

DAVID:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What keeps you working? 

DAVID:  What keeps me working? Well, I am, I have nothing much else to do. I enjoy my work, if I get the chance, though nowadays I can't do very much. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What do you do at the university when you go to work? 

DAVID:  Well now, the university I can edit papers that have been sent in, scientific papers, and that's about all I can do now. I can't get out in the field because I can't see very well and I can't walk very well. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When did you retire from paid work? 

DAVID:  Oh, now that was nearly, what was it? Forty, nearly forty years ago. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you were 65 when you retired? 

DAVID:  Yes, that's right, I've was obliged to retire at 65 because that was the policy of the federal government. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You worked for the CSIRO? 

DAVID:  I was with CSIRO. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Scientist.  What kind of work did you do at the CSIRO? 

DAVID:  Oh, well, my work was in plant ecology, I was studying vegetations. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You received an Order of Australia for your contributions to science when you were how old?

DAVID:  102, no, 101. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what would you be like, do you think, without honorary work at the university? 

DAVID:  Well, I don't know. Things would be very empty. I should probably continue to work at home. I can do much the same sort of thing at home as I am now doing at the university but it's better to have a place like that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Karen, what was he like when he had to retire?

KAREN:  He just assumed he was going to continue to work. He just, well he never officially retired anyway so he just continued to do exactly the same except for free of charge, so. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And as his daughter, what do you think he'd be like without work? 

KAREN:  I don't think that he would survive very long. His work is his hobby as well as his passion, his interest, and without his work I don't think that there would be a purpose for him anymore.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Thank you so much for joining us, thank you. Vijay, you're 59? 

VIJAY:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Close to half David's age actually? 

VIJAY:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long have you been looking for a job? 

VIJAY:  I've been a looking for a job for about two years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what had you been doing before that? 

VIJAY:  Before that my qualification has been in mechanical engineering and I worked in manufacturing industry as a general manager for a long time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, so on a reasonably high salary? 

VIJAY:  Yes, yeah, three figure salary, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what reason were you given when you lost your job? 

VIJAY:  The reason said that the technology is changing, that the market is dwindling and there's not much market in Australia for this type of product what I was doing. So they said they had to retrench me with some other staff and it was more or less downsizing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long had you been with the company? 

VIJAY:  For 28 years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you react to losing your job? 

VIJAY:  Now to hear that after 28 years where I put in my life and soul to the place, where I think I've sacrificed my personal time as well as my family time, to start from a very humble beginnings, I thought I will be, you know, part of the company till I retire.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you'd been planning to retire when? 

VIJAY:  I was planning to retire at 65 or maybe even 70, because health wise I felt good and I just felt that, I felt life when I was at work. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Where are you now?  What are you doing now? 

VIJAY:  At present I volunteer for non-profit organisation, for example, Wesley Mission, where I looked after the homeless in the city.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have you been looking for another managerial job in that time you've been out of work? 

VIJAY:  Yes I have and I think most of the time I think the age may be a factor because I do have a lot of experience, but I mean people don't say yes, it's your age, but I think I have applied even within the organisation and sometimes the younger people end up getting the job.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How actively have you been trying to get work? 

VIJAY:  I apply in all, whether it's Linked In or Seek or wherever. I also have taken some courses now so that I can work, like a Certificate 4 in Aged Care because I feel that there's a big market in aged care and maybe I need to change my profession and I think the fact that I was volunteering most of the time for the last two years, it is something that will suit me moving forward. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And are you thinking a managerial job or are you changing your expectations? 

VIJAY: Look, I feel I have to start at the bottom with the humble beginnings, but certainly I think I can bring a lot to the table if I was given a position of a team leader or a manager and that would be my goal, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How are you managing financially, do you need to work? 

VIJAY:  Definitely I need to work for a few years more but I think also the fact that I want to work more is, it gives me a sense of purpose, it gives me a direction.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sally, you're 56.  How long have you been looking for work? 

SALLY: I've been actively trying to get back into the workforce now for the last two years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you were out for a long time? 

SALLY: A long time. 


SALLY: Yeah, to raise Aaron who has a medical condition and we had a lot of issues around that and it made much more economic sense, because I had a history of nursing, for me to raise Aaron and for Matthew to continue his work and over the years I heard through the grapevine, through some school mum friends, that there were part-time jobs going in retail and I did get to interview stage for one of those and I was told by the guy, he said wow, he said at your age, what excuse have you got to have been out of the workforce so long? I can't see that here. So no, it goes without saying I didn't get that job after what I told him. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you explain to him why you'd been caring for someone? 

SALLY:  Yeah I did and he said oh, I've got plenty of school mums that work here, and he said and you know, you're nearly fifty. I wasn't nearly fifty, I was 49.  I was nearly, he was right, but it was one of those situations where I thought mmm, do I tell him what I think and definitely never, ever get a job here again? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What sort of job are you looking for? 

SALLY:  Well at the moment I'm doing some volunteer work for a not for profit organisation in customer service and it's in, I'm an assistant at a meditation and Buddhist centre and I'm just developing other skill sets. I've also worked part-time as a cosmetic consultant so I'm happy to start off small. I'm not ready to jump in and study nursing again and go back into nursing. 


SALLY:  Well I have a back injury and I think that would preclude me from a lot of the nursing roles and I'm really interested in going forward with the other roles, like teaching meditation and things like that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What sort of responses do you get to your job applications, other than the one you mentioned? 

SALLY:  None, none, none.  You fill in the application on-line, you send in your resumé, it looks really good and they send you back an email saying thank you that was fabulous, we'll ring you very soon and very soon doesn't happen. You don't get the phone call. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Vijay, you're nodding your head very…

VIJAY:  That's right. 

SALLY:  Don't get the phone call. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Has that happened to you a lot? 

VIJAY:  Definitely, yeah, yeah. I mean, you are so enthusiastic, you apply and you are quite positive that you'll at least get an interview but you don't get the interview and it can be very disheartening, but you have to carry on and keep applying. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Carmel, what happened to you in your mid 50's? We've heard stories from other people about losing jobs and changes in their lives and so on, what happened to you? 

CARMEL:  Well, my partner died suddenly and I became very depressed and I had to find a means of earning a living. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was your doctor's advice when you went to your doctor and said you were depressed? 

CARMEL:  Well I went look to my doctor and I said I think my hormones need adjusting because I was so depressed and she said there's nothing the matter with your hormones, you get out and do something with your life.  So I went home. I was living in Queensland and I got all the newspapers with the businesses for sale.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you have skills?  Did you have work skills? 

CARMEL:  Look, I've had marvellous skills but nothing that came with a certificate. You know, through my life I've worked in, at a sawmill, a chicken farm, boat hire, and the last thing that we had was actually a manager's contract to a retirement village but still nothing with a certificate. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So when your husband died, did you need to go out to work?  

CARMEL:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you need the money? 

CARMEL:  I had no income.

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you were looking around at what to do, what caught your eye? 

CARMEL:  I got an anonymous envelope in my letter box and in it was a cutting from the Australasian Post, and the cutting said: "Marlene, one of the madams in Kalgoorlie, wants to sell her galvanised iron brothel but anyone who buys it will have to pass a strict police test." Well I laughed when I read this and dropped it and forgot about it. But when it surfaced again about ten days later I thought I wonder if this is a sign?

JENNY BROCKIE:  Had you had any experience in this area before? 

CARMEL:  No.  Well look, you know, we've all been married.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you got the note, the letter about the brothel? 

CARMEL:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Or the notification about the brothel? 

CARMEL:  Mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why did you think about the brothel as a real prospect for you at that stage in your life, to buy a brothel?  

CARMEL:  Because I thought it was a sign and the fact that the police, I'd never heard of the police monitoring the sale of a brothel and I thought now, you know, it sounded safe. So I flew over to have a look and that was twenty five years ago.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you bought the brothel? 

CARMEL:  I did but I got a mortgage on the brothel and a mortgage on my house in order to be able to buy it.




CARMEL:  Hi, do you have tickets?

WOMAN: No we don't.

CARMEL:  Well look, step in here for a minute. We've got to count up how many we've got tickets. Oh, goodness me, anyone would think we were popular, wouldn't you?  Welcome to Questa Casa.  My name's Carmel, I'm the madam here.

This is the starting stall that will be open tonight. This is where the business starts. It has nothing to do with horses. This is the room where we had our dead man. You move along there please. And this room now, as you may have guessed, is the domination room and ladies, you'd be surprised at how complacent your man will be when they get a domination bed.

But we had a fellow come in a few months ago, big fellow, mid 40s, he had a big stainless steel hook with a ball on the end of it. The ball went into his anus, the hook came up over his back and went right up to be fastened with chains round his neck. He wanted the girl to try to lift him with that. Thank you for coming. Kalgoorlie is full of history.

WOMAN: Thank you, goodbye.

CARMEL:  Thank you for coming. 




JENNY BROCKIE:  Kalgoorlie is full of history Carmel. That's from a document about your brothel called the Pink House.   How long have you had the brothel now? 

CARMEL:  Twenty five years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you bought it when you were 55? 

CARMEL:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you're 80 now? 

CARMEL:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What does your daily work involve then? 

CARMEL:  Oh, golly, well, I get up every morning at 7, I put the sign out, I go out.  I do the vacuuming, I do the washing from the night before.  Because business has fallen right away, we do the tours. It's the tours that keep our heads above water, that's the most important business in the house.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And this is because the laws have changed?   

CARMEL:  This is because sex has become so casual, all the newspapers have sex ads in them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So the industry's changed? 

CARMEL:  Oh, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how many hours a day would you work Carmel? 

CARMEL:  Well, we open the doors at 7 at night and we close at midnight. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you're up at 7 in the morning? 

CARMEL:  So I'm in bed by 1 am and then I'm up at 7. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you need to keep working at 80?

CARMEL:  Probably not, look, I love the town, I love the people, I’ve got a lot of friends there. The madams in Kalgoorlie were always well thought of, Kalgoorlie was a family town, everybody helped everybody.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Can you imagine doing anything else work wise? Obviously you want to work, can you imagine doing any other job? 

CARMEL:  No, not really. Look, I enjoy and I'm always there for the girls. The girls are all somebody else's daughter and when they're in the house with me they're safe. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mark, you got sacked from your job as an Australian Idol judge when you were 55. How did you react initially? 

MARK:   I was in complete shock. It was out of the left field, didn't see it coming, the job a loved. It was the best job in the world and one day I was in and one day I was out.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you have a plan B? 

MARK:   No. No, in addition the music business had kind of evaporated on me as well which was my, you know, the …

JENNY BROCKIE:  In what way? 

MARK:   Well the disruption, the digital disruption had happened and the business that I knew wasn't really there anymore. The music business is still alive and well but the record business part of it which was the part that I loved, making records, writing songs, that was, that became almost impossible to do in Australia. It's still possible to do but it's very, very difficult. So…

JENNY BROCKIE:  So did you try to adapt to that at the time? 

MARK:   No, no, I licked my wounds and then just decided it was time to reinvent myself. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you had a law degree in your back pocket much earlier in your life? 

MARK:   I started in 1971 at Adelaide University and I eventually signed the bar roll in 2009, so it was a 38 year …


MARK:    A 38 year journey. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How open were you to that change, to making a big change in your career? 

MARK:   Well I wasn't open it to at all. It was thrust upon me and it was the best thing that ever happened because I probably wouldn't have gone back to the law except for the humiliation of being fired and the big slap on the face and I didn't want to, and really for my daughter amongst anything else. I just wanted my daughter to see her dad reinvent himself, because she knew how much I loved that show and how much I loved doing it, I wanted to see her see me right the ship, you know? 

JENNY BROCKIE: How long did it take to right the ship?

MARK:   It took me a couple of years and then I got cancer at the same time and that added another, you know, another element to it.  So I found myself going in to the courts around Melbourne as a young barrister, as a junior barrister, and you know, having my neck all puffy and …

JENNY BROCKIE:  From being sick? 

MARK:   Yeah, and, but getting out of, you know, having to leave the house and fight somebody else's problems. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That's actually a lot going on, isn't it, in a short amount of time to have cancer and all of those things? 

MARK:   The law was fantastic for me and it really has been. I've met some great people, I've got some lifelong friends now that I met through the law. I feel like I'm contributing.  I hear a lot of other people around here talking about, you know, volunteering, I do a lot of pro bono, I'm in the duty barrister scheme.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was it like going back to studying in your 50's? 

MARK:   Really difficult. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  After the life that you had as a performer as well as a judge on Australian Idol?  

MARK:   It was really, really difficult. I found that the most challenging. I found at the bar you're taught by Judges and barristers and so a Judge at one point said, you know, was talking about the new laws of evidence and I was thinking I don't actually know the old laws of evidence, you know? And I was kind of hiding behind people, you know, in the hope that I wouldn't get pointed at. But I managed to stumble my way through and learn on the job and the thing about being a barrister is that you are utterly independent, so you work for yourself which I really like. I'm unmanageable, I couldn't work for anyone else. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That's a really interesting point.

MARK:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I mean how important do you think it is as you get older to have that control, because you know, then you haven't got to worry about whether someone's going to sack you because you're older? 

MARK:   The idea of being a solicitor and going in and selling my time in six minute increments and having to be in a place every day was just so confronting to me, I could never, ever do it.  So being a barrister, you know, you do the job, it's done, you may not have a job for two or three weeks, that suits my lifestyle. You know, I can, I'm quite happy, unlike some people here, I think I'm quite happy to do nothing.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So in terms of your age then, now and looking forward, do you feel like you're in a sector where that doesn't matter? 

MARK:   It doesn't matter. It's one of those businesses that actually age is valued. I find myself in the family violence Court a lot and being an older person, I have a really good perspective, I have something to add other than law. It's not just about law, it's just about, it's about life. So yeah, no, it's a terrific thing and the Victorian bar is very welcoming. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Howard, you spent around two years unemployed after working for forty years as a mechanical fitter, why do you think you couldn't get a job during those two years? 

HOWARD:  Well there's many reasons. Ageism is one. But the way the jobs are advertised nowadays, it's strictly on-line. Back when, you know, we were younger, we'd go to the newspaper, have a read on Saturday and we'd circle the jobs and apply for them. Nowadays you must apply on-line and you must know how to apply on-line. You've got to be able to write your resumé or a CV, they don't want to know twenty five years, thirty years of background, they only want five years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  But did you, did you do that? Did you adapt to that? 

HOWARD:  We had to.  We learned because you put your application in on-line and maybe one out of fifty you'd get a reply, so. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How many jobs did you apply for? 

HOWARD:  Oh, I lost count, 100's, 100's. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was that process like for you, that whole process of having to learn to, to do the on-line applications and so on? Did you understand why you had to do that? 

HOWARD:  Well, now I did understand why because that's just the way technology is moving. But if you don't know how to write it and no one tells you, they're just getting kicked out.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did you want to do Howard? 

HOWARD:  Get back into work. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What sort of work? 

HOWARD:  I'm a mechanical fitter by trade. I've done construction, I've done the oil industry, the gas industry, I've worked tourism, I've done handyman work. I can't name the types of numbers of jobs that I've done. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how old were you when you were unemployed and looking for work? 

HOWARD:  That would have been 62.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how long did you want to work for? 

HOWARD:  Well, I had no limit. It depended due to the fact that all my life I've done heavy industry, from coal mines to iron ore, and it takes a toll on a tradie's body and mine was unfortunately in my ankles and that from the age of about sixteen when I started work, I knew that I was going to make my living with my hands and that's what I've done.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How were you during that time when you were unemployed? 

HOWARD:  Well, it got bad enough to contemplate suicide. When you learn that your life insurance policy is worth more than your life, but yeah, with the help of the family. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you seek out that information? Were you looking for that? 

HOWARD:  Oh, no, anyone that's serious …

JENNY BROCKIE:  Marilyn your wife is nodding and saying yes. 

MARILYN:   He worked out, he worked out how many years, days, hours and seconds that he had if he was going to suicide because his life insurance policy was null and void midnight of when he turned 65. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And he told you that?

MARILYN:   He told me that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Gosh, what was that like for you hearing that? 

MARILYN:   It scared me. I didn't know how to, to deal with it and all I could do was try, I'd been trying to let him know that he wasn't, it wasn't his fault. It was not his fault he was unemployed. And all I could do with him was I grabbed all of my research into what it was like to be over 50 and unemployed and I'd talked to a lot of men and women and I read out the men's stories because I wanted him to know that he was not alone and he went absolutely silent and that scared me more than him telling me how long he had before he could suicide and then he just looked at me and he said we've got to help these old buggers. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So that was a turnaround point for you? 

MARILYN:   That was, absolutely. 

HOWARD:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was to get a group together. 


JENNY BROCKIE:  To try and do something. Did you think about reskilling, retraining, doing courses when you lost your job? 

HOWARD:  Yes, yeah, we did think about it and looked into several of them but the courses and that that were mostly offered were like aged care, child care and they put thousands of people through these courses doing that and there's no jobs because there's too many for it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Vijay, how's being out of work affected you? 

VIJAY:  Well, it felt lonely.  It felt as if I was not contributing to the family. It felt that I, in some ways, you know, I was, I was sort of useless. But what I did was I tried to upgrade myself, I went to most of the seminars that was available in aged care, disability and home care. I started to do a course, Certificate 4 in Aged Care, I volunteered with a lot of non-profit organisations and I found that when I was doing that I was quite occupied and I did not in any way feel depressed or I felt sorry for myself.  And I was also looking at that by being there in a non-profit organisation for example, and contributing in some way, maybe they'll recognise my - that I have some advantage in that area or some talent that they might offer me the job. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you're still hoping that will happen? 

VIJAY:  I'm hoping, I'm very hopeful, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Your daughter Natasha is here.  Natasha, what's it been like watching your dad out of work? 

NATASHA: Um, to be honest, as he was speaking about it and I hope I don't get emotional because it still upsets me because it was very hard to see him suddenly let go. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's the hardest thing about it? 

NATASHA: I think I saw how much he put into the company. I saw how many hours he worked and when he came home one day I still remember it and my mum and him were looking very down and I said what happened and he said, you know, I've lost my job and it, it's just impacted me and my sister a lot and…

JENNY BROCKIE:  How has it impacted you and your sister? 

NATASHA: He's a very positive person and he always, you know, tries to, you know, put a positive spin on things but it was hard to see him kind of just not the next day be able to go to work and not knowing what was going to happen and I could see that he had a lot of responsibility in trying to provide for your family and so, sorry. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That's okay, don't apologise. 

NATASHA: It's just really, I don't know, it’s been two years and it still really impacts me and I have been trying… 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You've been trying to help him, haven't you? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  What have you been doing? 

NATASHA: Been applying for jobs on his behalf. I have been actively looking on-line. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you say applying for jobs on his behalf…


JENNY BROCKIE:  Why are you doing that rather than him doing that? 

NATASHA: I mean he has done some jobs applying on-line, but I kind of feel like I need to help him because it's a whole other different way of applying for jobs as it was, you know, maybe when my dad first started which is thirty, forty years ago.  It's changed a lot and so I felt seeing him start from the very beginning, it was very hard to see that and yeah, but he's been doing great and he's been liaising and he's been talking to people and he's been so positive and I just, for me I just really hope that someone gives him a chance. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you're very lucky, he's very lucky to have you, yeah. 

VIJAY:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sally, how much do you think the workplace has changed in the seventeen years that you've been out of it?  Do you feel on top of that looking for a job? 

SALLY: I feel as if the management roles are much younger than what they were. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And, that's because we're all getting older? 

SALLY: The population is getting older but I feel as if, valuing the older population should be really important.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Doreen, you're 84, how many careers have you had? 

DOREEN:  Oh, basically several, only as a teacher I guess but when I started just after my 20th birthday working in high schools right through till now I'm still teaching. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What are you teaching? 

DOREEN:  It's been one career really. I'm working …

JENNY BROCKIE:  But you've done a lot of different things, haven't you?

DOREEN:  I've done a lot of different things, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you've worked on policy as well? 

DOREEN:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  For education? 

DOREEN:  Yes, and curriculum development in physical education, health and then personal development, but my greatest dream in life was always movement and of all the movement that I taught as a physical education teacher, it came back to I think gymnastics and when I retired from teaching at 55, I was then involved in the PCYC movement to help out get a new club in Taree going and within a very short time, we had one of the biggest gymnastics clubs in Australia and it went on from there. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What are you doing now? 

DOREEN: Now I'm working with mature age people to redevelop their skills, or maintain their skills so that they can stay in their own homes. I think that's the big thing that older people look for now, the ability to cope at home. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Let's have a look at one of your classes. 




DOREEN:  That's what keeps you going in life, to have a purpose.  I wake up ready to jump out.

I won't make you go backwards today. Oh, yes, I will, backwards, come on, turn back round the other way, you're going backwards.

They don't expect somebody with a great grandchild at university to be taking gym classes, the people today range from either 73 through to 93.

Don't pull yourself out of the chair Marie, try to keep your arms straight. Arms straight, tall, sitting beautifully tall. You're not going to tear her arms out either, she's just pulling till you feel the tension. Not bad when you're nearly 94.

I think that's what keeps me going, maybe it's selfish but it's so good. I'm very fortunate.  Lots of people have chosen work that is perhaps boring, but mine there is always something different and something else evolving.

Your brain can, your brain cells we only use so few of them and we can make new tracks no matter what age.

I think we just have to look outside yourself, see the needs of others and share ourselves with them. You can all go and wash your hands.




JENNY BROCKIE:  Doreen, at 84 how often do you work now? 

DOREEN:  I do two days a week with the mature age people and that class is called the grandly mature age class, they don't like that three letter word, old. 


DOREEN:  And then I'm on-call for my old club in at Taree.  It comes not too frequently now but when the girls who I've trained to become coaches and they get married and have babies, I take over during their maternity leave.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How much have you had to change your working life of sixty plus years? 

DOREEN:  Oh, you do have to change and adapt all the way because what I did when I was a school girl fur gymnastics in particular was very boring and staid, and as we develop more understanding of the human body, things have changed in gymnastics in the techniques of teaching, knowing that we have to strength in areas before we can do activities. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you've had to keep up-to-date with work changing all the time? 

DOREEN:  Oh my word, yes, I keep on learning. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Carol, you've studied older workers.  How typical is Doreen? 

CAROL:  It's amazing.  We see people reinventing themselves, having encore careers, changing occupations, changing professions. What's really frustrating for me though in the kind of work that I do is I don't understand why we're not taking advantage of this fantastic opportunity we have. We are so lucky to have people who are living older, living longer lives, living healthier lives, interested and willing to work and yet somehow our organisations are so rigid and the way we think about jobs and the way we define work and retirement that we can't adapt to them, to make use of them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What do you think though older workers are like at change?  Are they all good at it or is there a really mixed picture here? 

CAROL:  You know, I think this whole idea about older workers not being good at change comes from something really specific. There's this tiny little grain of truth which is that older people learn differently than younger people do.  So we have designed organisations to meet the needs of younger workers. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Pam, how's your workplace deal with you? I mean do you have a different set of criteria?

PAM:  They give me a little bit of leeway. But one thing I have to say, I've just had my 86th birthday and one of the most wonderful comments on my birthday card was from my supervisor who said:  "Happy birthday to my little freak of nature." How cool is that? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That is cool. 

PAM:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That is cool, that's very cool.  Carol, the workplace is obviously changing rapidly, where do you think the onus of responsibility lies in that? Is it up to the individual who's looking for work if they're an older worker to embrace change and go with it, to what extent does the employer change, how does that work? 

CAROL:  I don't think it's an either or. I think that we have no choice but we have to change organisations and we need to change jobs to recognise that our population is aging. We talk to older workers all the time who say I would have worked forever if only I didn't have to do this one physical task that my ankles couldn't handle, or my, you know, my wrist doesn't handle and you think, but you could do 99 percent of the job but we couldn't let go of that one task. Those are things that we really do need to be more flexible about.

But I'm not letting the older worker off the hook either. We really need to redefine what a career is for ourselves. I'd really like to see people every five years do a self-assessment, you know, am I going to be able to do this job ten years from now? What has to change? What has to change in me?  What has to change in my employer? How am I going to apply for that next job, is my resumé up to date? We need to stop thinking about the fact that if I'm good at it thirty I'm going to just keep doing that over my career and that's a different kind of flexibility on the side of the older worker. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Anne, you're 62.  Until did six years ago you had a management job in HR.  You left that job.   What did you do decide to do? 

ANNE:  I thought as an HR practitioner I'd been encouraging people for a decade to take more control over their careers and I looked at what was happening in the world of work, digital disruption that Mark referred to earlier, and a whole range of other factors, what was happening in enterprise and so I decided that I was going to build a software platform that would help people become more in control of their working lives and their careers. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what experience did you have to set up a software platform business? 

ANNE:  Well I had a substantial amount of expertise in the subject that I was…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Knowledge side of things? 

ANNE:  The knowledge side of things.  But I don't cut code and originally that was a bit of an impediment because someone looked me in the eye very early on and said Anne, you'll never be successful, you're not 35, male and you can't cut code, and I thought right, thanks very much for that, I’ll file that so I found myself some developers.

So one of the reasons though that I didn't set up the software company earlier was because I couldn't have built an app when I was 25 and I certainly couldn't have done it with thirty years of experience at 25. So I think that I've come across the technology and the scale of what I want to do at precisely the right time. So I'm actually on the same wave as anybody else that would sit around me doing the same work. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You'd been in paid employment right up until that? 

ANNE:  I had. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what was that like going out on your own? 

ANNE:  Scary, scary. In the process of doing that, I rendered myself unemployable and what I mean by that is if I've enjoyed the autonomy so much and the highs and lows often in the course of a day or an hour that it's quite addictive and so my mantra is that entrepreneurship and innovation and passion for life and energy is not bound by age, it's bound by attitude and mindset.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what do you think when you hear about the problems that older workers having getting jobs? 

ANNE:  Look, I have an enormous amount of compassion for all the important stories that we've heard tonight. But the bottom line is this, most of us here entered the workforce when we had a reasonable expectation that we would be educated once, i.e. we'd go off to university and perhaps pick up some post grad qualifications a bit later on, and that we would have stable, secure employment and a relatively linear career path.

Now all of that's changed in recent times. We're entering into a gig economy where 30 percent of all workers are contingent workers, In fact all of us are in the gig economy whether we realise it or not. Contract work is increasing.  The psychological contract for work has changed so you know, your organisation, we're reluctant to hear this when we've made the efforts that Vijay has made, but the decisions that are made by organisations to survive and thrive in this new world have an economic imperative that means that they need to shift people out.

So the onus is more and more on individuals to take control and to have some level of agency, to find work where they feel meaning, but they also have the opportunity for what I call mastery and that is the continuous learning, lifelong learning and the responsibility for that sits with us, not with our one time employer.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how long do you think you'll keep working, how long do you want to keep working? 

ANNE:  Indefinitely.  I don't want to retire because I've discovered that people that retire actually get old really quickly. The name of this game is to remain relevant and enthusiastic because that's ageless. People respect it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ron, you're 74, what are you doing. 

RON:  I'm now an Uber driver. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what did you do before? 

RON:  Well I've had quite a varied career but basically I was a geologist for many years, from the time I was in Fiji, I was actually a director, a manager for forty years plus.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So why did you move from management to being an Uber driver? 

RON:  It was time to retire. Basically I moved from being a professional in management and getting into small companies which many of us try.   When the last company failed it was my wife who challenged me, and that was in 2006.  She said look, you spent forty years in management, why don't I go and do a public service and I said like what? She said go drive a bus.  So I drove a bus for about ten years, just to see what it was like, I enjoyed it. I didn't have to worry about writing reports and staff or raising money for the company or doing things like that. But that was really just driving buses and then when that sort of became not so interesting, Uber came along. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How many days a week do you drive? 

RON:  I drive about five days a week, sometimes seven days a week but I only drive about three hours in the mornings. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why do you do it? 

RON:  Just to have something to do, to be involved, because at 74 you don't want to retire. I don't want to get old, I feel like I'm still young, I'm still quite fit and you do have to stay involved with the economy, with what's going on around you, and as an Uber driver I get to meet people that are interesting, that have different careers and we have good conversations in the car. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mark, how long do you want to keep working? 

MARK:  I'm readjusting myself and I'm still continuing to be a barrister and I still will do work but I want to do less. I find it very stressful and at 63 I don't really want stress any more. So I'm turning myself back to music, I'm turning myself back to, I've written a one man show and I'm going to plod off into the distance, you know, singing a song hopefully. But I never want to retire because retirement is, is removing yourself from the field of play.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Vijay, how do you see your future? 

VIJAY:  Well, definitely moving forward I would like to work at least full time till I'm 70 odd, then after that do some part-time work and definitely spend more time in charity organisations because I think they do wonderful work and I think it's a great feeling that I get to be able to help people out, whether they're homeless or in disability or aged care. So definitely I'll continue to do that and life is looking good. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Doreen, does retirement appeal to you? 

DOREEN:  It did when I was about 54 but once I got back into my passion and working with people again and with children, I just keep going and retirement for me is not on the books unless my husband says I need you more than they do, but then I'll say well I'll share you with them. 


DAVID:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long do you want to keep working at the university? 

DAVID:  Oh, until I die which will be pretty soon I suppose. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Not sure about that.  It's been great to hear all your stories, thank you all very much and that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook. Thanks so much everyone, thank you.