Workers and employers: push back the retirement age!

The Bottom Line

  • Older workers who remain in employment for longer often have better physical, psychological and social life.
  • Older workers usually have similar expectations as younger workers; a job that values them and promotes their autonomy.
  • Employers who offer personal and career development opportunities in an equitable manner to all employees, and who put in place accommodations to address aging-related issues and promote an inclusive, non-discriminatory work environment, succeed in pushing back retirement age among their employees, while fostering knowledge transfer and reducing labour costs.

Did you know that people aged 55 and over made up 36% of the working-age population in 2016?(1) However, baby boomers are leaving the labour force in huge numbers (2), which, coupled with a decline in the birth rate in industrialized countries, is leading to a decline in the working-age population. This will have an impact on the economic growth and sustainability of public pension schemes and the costs of public services, in particular.

Yet, older workers have a lot to contribute to business and society in terms of productivity and knowledge. There are also many physical, psychological and social benefits to push the retirement age to later in life.

But what can employers do to keep aging workers employed? A systematic review of 41 studies conducted in the United Kingdom examined what motivates older workers to remain in employment (3).

What the research tell us

Three main themes emerged from the literature: the nature of work that aging workers prefer, the culture and organizational values they seek, and the measures and job adjustments that facilitate their retention.

Older workers usually have similar expectations as younger workers. They want to be recognized, respected and valued within their organization. They want to have autonomy, as well as stimulating and varied tasks. They expect their employers to be fair by offering career development opportunities to all employees, regardless of age.

The review also revealed that older workers appreciate using their skills and competencies to act as mentors or team leaders. This helps to concretely recognize their experience, enhance their sense of being useful, foster better intergenerational relationships, and break down social isolation.

The review also highlighted that older workers face different aging-related issues such as physical and psychological limitations and illnesses. Employers who allow part-time work or fewer full-time hours, and who offer psychological support, as well as ergonomic adjustments to work equipment, help to keep older adults working longer.

The review shows that older female workers who are facing sexual harassment or social isolation at work are more likely to choose early retirement. Inclusive human resource policies and adequate management to maintain a positive work environment are paramount to support employees’ health and well-being.

Employers: value the strengths of your older employees, be fair, take time to discuss each other's work aspirations, be as flexible as possible about work schedules and be inclusive. Your employees will feel respected, and you will reap significant benefits!

Workers: do not hesitate to ask for adjustments that will allow you to continue working, sharing your experiential knowledge, and making a meaningful contribution to the workforce while having time for your other responsibilities as parents, grandparents or caregivers.

Featured Resources

  1. Fields A, Uppal S, Larochelle-Côté S. The Impact of Aging on Labour Market Participation Rates. [Internet] Statistics Canada, Ottawa: Canada, 2017. [cited September 2017]. Available from:
  2. Radio-Canada. Le vieillissement s'accélère au pays, voyez comment en graphiques. [Internet] 2017. [cited September 2017]. Available from:
  3. Marvell R, Cox A. Fulfilling work: What do older workers value about work and why? Institute for Employment Studies and Centre for Ageing Studies, London: United Kingdom, 2017.

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DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.