How Senior Workers Can Cope in Uncertain Times

soldiering on This article is contributed by Morgan Darrow.

Older employees in the workplace can represent many different things: experienced mentors, skilled workers wizened by decades of experience, and models of prosperous work ethic. However, they also represent one of the most rapidly expanding demographics in work forces around the world.

Elderly employees are being worked well past their years of retirement – and the toll of that work so late in their lives begins to show itself in physical wear, mental exhaustion, and anxiety for the future.
In fact, the average age of all workers has been increasing constantly since the 1970’s. By 2020, it is believed that the median age of elderly employees in developed countries will rise by nearly a decade. In Australia, the population of individuals aged over 65 is expected to double to about 25%.

Many economists see these numbers as a warning sign of economic stagnation, much like Japan has suffered with its fast aging population. Being able to financially support a retirement in increasingly unstable financial times can present a challenge to any senior in the workforce. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that employers see older employees as a liability for injury coverage, and often refuse to hire the elderly due to this concern (among other prejudices.)

Senior citizens are more inclined towards severe depression than most other demographics, and with such a grim outlook on workplace demographics in the coming years, rates of depression among the elderly are expected to skyrocket. For many employees approaching old age, retirement is like a goal post that is always being moved. This is especially true considering that nearly half of the world’s workforce above the age of 45 in developed countries have nothing at all towards their own retirement. But there are steps senior workers can take today in order to make tomorrow more certain and overcome depression:

Know what finances you’ll need to comfortably retire

While the financial burden of retirement can seem insurmountable approaching old age with little saved resources, the best way to overcome your apprehension is by assessing how much you’d require to reach a satisfying retirement. This method may also help you assess your options and more easily discern how soon retirement may come for you.

There are plenty of handy references online to help you on figuring out this number, such as this superannuation calculator. Even if this number seems impossible, it can help tremendously in taking the anxiety out of approaching the age of retirement by making your needs a tangible number.

Recognize the symptoms of depression

Many households make the mistake of identifying certain symptoms – like complaints of physical pain, a distant demeanor, and slowed speech and movement – as being part of the natural process of aging, or other conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. However, these are also some key symptoms of depression.

It’s important for senior citizens to recognize these issues as they surface before this condition can take a serious hold of one’s livelihood and mental state. While it can be difficult to admit something like depression, it is a treatable condition and can be improved with increased awareness amongst everyone in a household.

Be prepared for unemployment if work isn’t an option

As difficult as it can be to let go of work, physical limitations brought on by age can eventually make continued work impossible regardless of one’s financial situation. Having backup plans, such as stay-at-home ways of income or alternative living situations, is a necessary part of planning should “forced retirement” become a situation for a senior worker.

Given the emotional trauma unemployed people experience, it’s also crucial to prepare emotionally. Accepting unemployment in a healthy manner can improve your mental health, fiscal planning, and allow others to better assist you depending on your needs. For more advice on coping with unemployment, see this article by Tim Lutenski of the National Career Development Association.

Author Bio: Morgan Darrow, who currently writes with Suncorp Superannuation, is a lifelong advocate for awareness of the special needs of seniors. After spending several years volunteering in a retirement home within her own community, she began a now decade-long career in real estate. She dabbles in writing and enjoys spending time with her fiancé.

Image credit: soldiering on image courtesy of John Fraissinet.

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