I was born old and get younger every day. At present I am sixty years young. – Herbert Beerbohm Tree
There are many views on life after retirement. To some it’s a long-term vacation spent travelling the world, exploring its wonders. To others it means spending more time with family and friends while doing community service. However, there are retired seniors or older workers close to 60 who finds satisfaction in continuing to work well beyond their official retirement date.
To this group, 60 is but a halfway point in their career for various reasons and for some, it is an opportunity to delve into a new role. Like many developed economies, Malaysia is facing an inverted age pyramid as people are living longer. Furthermore, reports from EPF and Khazanah Research Institute’s state of households in 2016 raise concerns over Malaysians retiring with insufficient funds to sustain retirement.
As such, it is no wonder why many older workers desire to continue employment. As a workforce that is extremely experienced, highly skilled, physically able and driven, they are still capable of making meaningful contributions that further develop businesses and raise their productivity.
A conversation with two older workers employed at Aged Care Group (ACG) and Managedcare highlights how older workers are very much able and valuable to the workplace.
Cecilia: Nurturing the younger talents
Cecilia Chan is a former banker from Deutsche Bank Malaysia Berhad. She was working in operations when she retired at age 60, then took a year to relax before joining back the workforce as a temp in a law firm. A year later, she joined ACG. When we interviewed her about her return to the workforce and how she came to ACG, this is what she had to say:
“After my husband retired, he joined a college as a contract worker where he has been working ever since. Since he was working and I’m not one to sit still in the house, I started speaking to friends asking if they knew of any tempt jobs. It could be anything as I was willing to give it a chance. A friend recommended to me a position in the aged care industry and it was a great opportunity that suddenly just came along.
Compared to her previous jobs, working in the aged care sector certainly was an eye opener as it also provided a new role and responsibilities.
“Experience-wise, I am learning something new. Currently, I do a lot of research which I hadn’t done previously. In the bank, we were more task oriented whereby instructions were given from clients and banks – local and overseas alike. Tasks were also more compartmentalised, performed and executed by designated departments.”
Cecilia further stated that in an industry that is new, there is a lot of talent that needs to be nurtured in the effective growth of the aged care industry.
“I hope to pass on my experiences from the bank to younger workers that could be beneficial to them either in their personal life or professional one. Developing their soft skills, giving a structure in work processes and such.”
Paramjit: repurposing expertise
Mrs Paramjit Kaur is – a 55-year-old qualified nurse manager with more than 25 years of experience and is currently working with Managedcare. When we sat down with her for this interview she spoke about the different focus of her occupation at present despite treading on familiar ground:
“My last experience was in setting up hospitals and a set of clinics where I’ve had to look into the care aspects that was required for the operations of the institutions such as commissioning wards, putting up nursing units, identifying how many plug points for medical equipment, beds and rooms, pathways and etc.
It was very focused on medical needs, illness-investigation and new technology for treatments. In Managedcare, I am responsible to look into the same areas but the components are totally different. Here we are setting up nursing homes and retirement villages which have different requirements as we are looking at the lifestyle of the elderly. It is more focused on the wellness aspects incorporating medical needs.”
Paramjit also shares Cecilia’s opinion that mentorship plays a crucial role in ensuring progress. What is evident from both of their views is that they believe in contributing back to society, impacting lives by doing something they are both passionate about.
This element is ACG’s aspiration and field of advocacy which is to engage the older workforce to continue contributing to the social and economic growth of the country.
“We need to groom young colleagues and nurture their talents, honing the finer skills they need to take over key positions. Otherwise you won’t encourage growth and you need them to be at their best because they are the ones who will go on to develop and improve aged care, which is something we all need.”
Silver Employment Needs & Value
Commenting on the issue of shrinking talent pools – due to lower birth rates and ageing population growth – and how businesses can connect with seniors looking for work and vice versa, Melinda U, General Manager of Managedcare Sdn Bhd, sheds some insight on the matter.
“Malaysia’s official retirement age at 60 is still early. At that age, seniors are still very healthy and some would want to continue working. We have initiatives from Talent Corp that encourage women and Malaysians working in foreign countries to join the Malaysia workforce. However, there has yet to be any initiatives to encourage seniors to continue working.
Given their maturity, seniors can offer much in terms of their expertise and experience to meet the demand for skilled labour. This is where Managedcare can step in to serve as a platform to match employers with seniors who want to work.”
To get the best productivity out of this relationship, she stated that employers needed to be flexible with different work arrangements to facilitate older workers to continue working and that it is important not to have stereotypes for age groups.
Employers need to ease the working environment for older workers to help them perform their best. For example, installing proper lighting or bigger desktop screens to accommodate the senior’s natural physiological changes such as eyesight. On the other hand, older workers need to be aware of their available working options – such as working part-time, freelancing, working-from-home, running a business, etc. They need to be open to doing jobs that aren’t related to their previous experience.
“Ultimately, it comes down to both parties needing to be aware of each other’s needs and being flexible in their arrangements.”