Around one in five over 50s are looking at either delaying or bringing forward their retirement plans as a result of COVID-19, in a change which is likely to have significant implications for seniors housing design.

These conclusions have been made in the Australian Seniors Series: Ageing in the Workforce 2021 report, based on a survey of more than 5,000 Australians over the age of 50.

The report explores the experiences of Australia’s over 50s in the workforce and retirement, as well as the impacts of COVID-19, while also shedding light on the ongoing barriers of ageism faced by Australia's ageing workforce. 

The report finds that 13.5 per cent of over 50s are planning to delay their retirement, or re-enter the workforce, simply because of COVID-19 impacts. This is far greater than the 4.9 per cent who are looking at accelerating their retirement, or were forced to retire in the last year.

In addition, for those who are already retired, some 88.9 per cent are considering re-entering the workforce for a wide range of reasons - not just COVID-19.

Some 50 per cent of people considering re-entering the workforce are doing this for financial reasons and 19 per cent because they miss their job and industry. A further 18 per cent said they were bored with retirement.

The findings illustrate the increasing challenge for retirement living operators to both provide for downsizers who want to retire early, as well as provide an environment in which other downsizers can continue to work or transition to retirement.

More retirement villages and land lease communities are catering for older workers through home offices and studies, or co-working space, along with NBN connections.

More retirement living operators are providing home study and office areas for workers

The report also found that 76 per cent of over 50s would be happy to keep working if they had flexible working conditions, with 57 per cent of these respondents seeking part-time hours and 55.2 per cent wanting flexible times and shifts.

Another 54.9 per cent wanted to see anti-age discrimination policies in place and respected.

Sydney-based organisational psychologist Humphrey Armstrong said it was not surprising that more over 50s were looking at re-entering the workforce.

“Interestingly, with skilled migration being pretty much shut down over the last 18 months, many organisations are now reporting difficulties in recruiting loyal, reliable staff,” he said.

“This is being reflected in the much faster than expected decline in unemployment over the last few months, which amazingly has now dropped in June below 5 per cent.

“The increasing need to find talented, experienced staff presents a great opportunity for organisations to consider retaining and hiring older people. 

“As the survey results indicate, many seniors are wishing to work longer and the statistic of 89 per cent of current retirees considering re-entering the workforce suggests older Australians are an important, relatively untapped talent pool.

“The shift to flexible and remote working arrangements, which are especially attractive for many older women who are keen to secure flexible part-time jobs, means new employment opportunities are now emerging, due in part to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.”

Amanda Mackean, Founder and Director of Seeking Seniors, a job and recruitment agency for Australia’s over 45s said: ““Our economy is not going to get out of this ravaged state unless we alter our standards and employ Australia’s over 50s.”

“A misconception is that older Australians are looking for those senior and ‘career-defining’ roles, but the truth is they want a different pace.

“Thus, companies have an opportunity to bring in their expertise in a variety of mid-level vacancies. Having come up against age discrimination first-hand during my career, I'm hopeful that a wider understanding of the positive contributions over 50s bring to the workforce, will help thousands of seniors facing ageism.”