Bob MacDonald

Not quite retiring

Old workers still going strong with many not yet ready to retire – or can afford it.

  • Dec. 25, 2013 7:00 p.m.

Bob MacDonald, 76, is working on his second career as a greeter at Uptown Wal-Mart.

He has a pension from 50 years working in the forest industry as a senior camp manager, but wasn’t ready to retire.

“I went home and drove my wife crazy,” he said.

MacDonald is among an increasing number of people over 65 who are choosing to remain in the workplace or returning to work after retirement.

“People used to retire, go home to their house in a neighbourhood where they’d lived all their lives and putter around the garden,” said Lynne England, executive director and advocate at Greater Victoria’s Seniors’ Entitlement Service

“It’s not the way now; it can be horribly isolating.”

England said the value of those older workers is tremendous. “They have years of experience and know how to get things done,” she added.

Neena Chappell, a professor of sociology at the University of Victoria, said it’s not just boredom that drives older workers but economics, too.

“Let’s face it, people are living longer and the economy is lousy. That pension may not be enough. We’re not talking Freedom 55 any longer. You’re lucky if it’s Freedom 85.”

The persistent presence of those older workers can present some challenges, however.

Dr. Lynn McDonald, a professor in the faculty of social work at the University of Toronto, cites a host of studies that report an increasing level of frustration from younger workers who feel that their own career paths are blocked by older workers who refuse to retire.

“My response to that?” said McDonald. “Tough … grow up.”

She said that younger workers have to realize that their older counterparts have worked hard to achieve their positions. “They worked their way up to where they are and don’t want to – or need to – retire. Why should they?”

McDonald said it’s a disingenuous argument that says this generation’s failure to advance in the workplace is due to the presence of older workers.

“There are numerous studies that indicate that the fault lies with this generations approach to work,” McDonald said.

“There’s no loyalty to the company with this generation. They jump from job to job, always thinking that their youth and education should move them to the top of the promotion ladder. That’s not the way things work.”

McDonald said younger workers also have the idea that they can maintain a healthy life/work balance with a heavy emphasis on the “life” part of that equation.

“It’s a different work ethic than the baby boomers.”

McDonald said young people must realize they, too, will age and their success will depend on how the work ethic they develop over the years.

“As it stands right now,” MacDonald said,” I’ve heard it time and time again, if you want something done, hire a baby boomer.”

As for MacDonald, his experience has been put to good use at Wal-Mart where he has also been involved with the health and safety committee.

But MacDonald thinks he may leave his job at Wal-Mart soon.

“I beat cancer back in 2011 and I’d like to give back by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society. They do great work, and I’ve still got a lot to offer.”

•••

Nearly one in five Canadian workers expect they will never be able to fully retire.

Compared to workers in a broad cross-section of 15 industrialized nations, Canadians are among the worst off.

Seventeen per cent of Canadian workers expect they’ll always have to work. This compares to the global figure of 12 per cent, according to The Future of Retirement: Life after Work, a large HSBC survey of people in Canada, Australia, France, Hong Kong, India and Mexico, among other countries. Canada rated just above the U.K. (19 per cent) and the U.S. (18 per cent).

 

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