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Freedom 65?


If you are thinking of spending your twilight years tending the garden upon reaching the age of 65, think again. The retirement age in Canada is a moving goalpost, as increasing longevity means that more people are staying in the workforce longer.

The latest figures from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey speak to that: in April, employment among people 55 and older increased by 24,000, while it declined by 20,000 among men aged 25 to 54. People 55 and older had the fastest rate of employment growth at 3.6 per cent, compared with other demographic groups. And in February, the Trudeau government’s economic advisory council recommended that Ottawa raise the age of retirement eligibility for old-age security and the Canada Pension Plan from the current 65 to 67.

As the trend of mature workers working well into their retirement age continues, employers who respond to this changing workplace demographic accordingly will be better positioned to optimize the benefits that older workers bring and mitigate the associated challenges.

While research shows that older workers have fewer accidents and injury rates compared to their younger counterparts, they are more seriously affected when accidents do occur and take more sick days. These events also increase the likelihood of their retirement. The types of injuries that older workers sustain can also be different from those of younger workers, who get more eye or hand injuries, while older workers report more back injuries, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety in Hamilton, Ontario.

A 2014 report out of Brunel University in the United Kingdom offered some encouraging findings. Those who worked beyond the statutory pension age enjoyed better health, had more advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and had higher levels of education. While cognitive decline with advancing years was associated with the older population, there was little evidence for such changes affecting the job performance or safety of workers above 60, although mixed outcomes were seen for driving safety. Neither did this cohort seem to be at risk from shift work or overtime if their total work hours did not exceed 60 per week. The main age-related discomfort reported was fatigue, which can largely be managed through keeping fit and working part-time.

Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Prevention Services identified several measures that could serve both employers and older workers well. Offering flexibility in work schedules can address the issue of fatigue and minimize commuting to work. Self-paced work and jobs that permit self-directed rest breaks and involve less repetitive tasks or sedentary work can also mitigate the potential for musculoskeletal or back injuries. Providing reasonable accommodations and return-to-work processes is also vital in facilitating a multi-generational workforce.

For many, retirement is the ultimate finishing line and a ticket to freedom. But under the right conditions, gainful employment beyond 65 can be satisfying and empowering by enabling continued, active engagement with society. It can also encourage positive aging and promote psychological well-being.

Jean Lian is the editor of OHS Canada.