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Report on Ageing and Work Finds Government Policy Creates a Threat to Older People

Resource type: News

Older and Bolder |

Report on Ageing and Work finds Government Plans to extend Retirement Age without focus on work policies creates a threat to older people.

A new paper released today (May 10th) outlines the barriers to employment that older people face in Ireland.  The report Ageing, the Demographic Dividend and Work which was commissioned by Older & Bolder and written by Professor Desmond O’Neill discusses late life Creativity and highlights the potential benefits to the Irish economy of developing a successful life-span strategy for work.  However, the paper also highlights the dangers of a policy of extending the retirement age, without an accompanying and proactive commitment by Government to policies incorporating life-long training, age-friendly HR practices and work places and concerted action to eliminate ageism and prejudice against older workers.

Director of the Older & Bolder alliance, Patricia Conboy, explained that Ageing, the Demographic Dividend and Work was commissioned by the alliance as part of their work on the National Pensions Framework (NPF). The NPF plans incremental increases in the qualifying age for the State Pension, commencing in 2014.  Ms. Conboy says that Older & Bolder favours the principle of choice for workers.  “We agree that people who wish to work longer, or who wish to work longer but flexibly, should be facilitated to do this. However the NPF does not address the workplace changes that are needed to accommodate late working and flexible working and this concerns us.”

The paper written by Professor O’Neill of Aois agus Eolas, The Centre of Ageing, Neuroscience and the Humanities at Tallaght Hospital Dublin, notes the low profile of aging policy in Ireland and the fact that Ireland remains one of the very few countries in Europe who have not responded to the UN Madrid Action Plan on Ageing. 

Explaining that  Ageing, the Demographic Dividend and Work discusses the barriers to full inclusion of older people in the workforce, Professor O’Neill describes key ‘Pull Factors’ and ‘Push Factors’.  ‘Pull Factors’ include financial incentives to retire whereas ‘Push Factors’ represent failure of workplaces to engage with ageing, -through ageist recruitment policies and negative perceptions of older workers and inflexible working practices.

Professor O’Neill continued “Other countries are already adopting a range of interventions in this area, for example, the Finnish Government has developed measures such as the Work Ability and Age Management programmes.  The promotion concept is based on four different actions:

  • Adjustments needed in the physical environment.  This includes moderating the physical workload, alteration of work-rest schedules (including micro breaks), and reduction of repetitive work.

  • Adjustments needed in the psychological work environment.  This applies gerontological principles in a technique called age-management incorporating a positive attitude to one’s own ageing as well as the ageing of others, team working, individualised adaption to work and open minded communication about changes needed because of a more diverse workforce. 

  • Health and lifestyle promotion.  This centres on regular physical exercise in leisure time. 

  • Updating professional skills.  This is the final critical component, particularly as there is evidence of reduced access to training for older workers, including in Ireland. 

Patricia Conboy continued “If we are to realise the potential of older workers as a dividend to our economy, then we need to look at models such as the Finnish and apply the learning to develop a strong Irish life-span strategy for work. The Government’s National Pensions Framework commences from 2014 so the lead-in time is short and there is no scope for dragging our heels. 

She concluded “Our position is that mandatory retirement ages, age discrimination in the workplace and gaps in the provision of education and training opportunities for older employees are inherently ageist and militate against the exercise of choice by older people.  I would urge the Government to address these fundamental issues and develop an ageing strategy to remove these barriers to allow for choice for older workers.

Older & Bolder is a national alliance of eight non-governmental organisations that aims to champion the rights of older people and to combat ageism.  The members of the alliance are: Active Retirement Ireland, Age & Opportunity, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Carers Association, The Irish Hospice Foundation, Irish Senior Citizens Parliament, Older Women’s Network and the Senior Help Line.

Older & Bolder is an Atlantic Grantee.


For additional information:

Report shows employers can benefit from older workers (Irish Times)

Ageism concerns must be addressed (Irish Examiner)

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