They say that ageing isn’t for the faint-hearted. Tell that to Harold - the 91-year-old staff member at Bunnings Canberra Airport store. Not only did Harold (who prefers not to use his surname), successfully snare a job a Bunnings at the age of 87 but pivoted to this role in hardware after a career as a mechanical engineer.
Yes, it’s never too late for a change of direction in life.
Bunnings most senior staff member is the first to feature in Downsizing’s new series which celebrates inspirational people who are breaking through the age barrier in many different areas including sport, business, community and the arts.
People like Bruce Robertson, who gave 76 years of service to the surf loving public as a lifesaver on Sydney’s Bilgola Beach and only semi-retired at the age of 87, when he could no longer drive a patrol vehicle. Bruce held the title of Australia’s oldest lifesaver but felt such an outgoing wave of love and support during his retirement formalities, that he was soon back on the beach, ready to help out. He regularly made the trek all the way from his inner city home to the far Northern beaches. “I can still swim and run on the sand,” he told his club mates. “I can still be useful.”
There’s also many women who are changing the face of ageing in Australia and we also wish to highlight and celebrate as many as we can.
But back to Harold, 91 and his current four year stint at Bunnings. News of his dedication to his work, comes at the same time as the release of a report from consultancy firm, KPMG, which has found that the retirement age has risen steadily in Sydney over the last 20 years. Men, who are now aged 45, are expected to retire at around 65.3 years of age with women tipped to retire a year earlier at 64.
For Harold, retiring in his 60s, would have surely made him feel like a bit of a youngster. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with going into cruise control and doing exactly as you please as a senior, research has told us that there are some benefits to even part-time work:. It promotes physical and mental agility.
Harold is certainly fully engaged. His Canberra Bunnings team praise him for his humble attitude, his is go-getter energy and the way that he’s always ready to get involved in different work projects.
Most days, he can usually be found either at the tool shop register or one of the front registers, helping customers and chatting to them about their DIY projects. Certainly he’s had his fair share of those in his long life.
But is it so easy for everyone?
Many older Australians, wishing to re-enter the workforce, have no doubt considered putting their age back- not out of vanity but purely out of necessity. There’s a stigma around ageing, which is only receding in the present time when there is a real shortage of workers. However seniors are now being welcomed back and praised for they experience, maturity and their approach to their work.
Harold had no qualms about applying to Bunnings at 87. He believes that one is “never too old to work” and says that age “should never be a barrier”.
People should concentrate instead on their strengths and capabilities.
He has always done that. Harold started work at 16 as a fitting and machinery apprentice before becoming a mechanical engineer. But he’s also worked across a wide range of industries during his career including sales, operations, maintenance and industry safety.
As a measure of how well liked and respected he is at Bunnings, his recent is 91st birthday was announced on the Bunnings internal social network. Then more than 400 employees sent him birthday greetings, which he loved. But even when it’s not such a special day, Harold’s fellow team members always check in to see how he’s going.
Bunnings’ customers in the Canberra Airport store, also like having his grand fatherly’ presence around. And his employment at Bunnings, speaks to the brand’s core values. According to a study sited by Columbia University’s Ageing Centre in New York, customers at many retailers and service providers, appreciate seeing long-time workers. They feel that their presence sends the message that “the business values its workers, its customers, and its community”.
So now it’s over to you. Downsizing.com.au is searching for more inspirational Australians like Harold and Bruce. Everyday Aussies, who are making a difference to how ageing is viewed. If you know anyone, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.