The latest numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the percentage of economically active over-65s had risen from 5.24 19 years ago to 10.6 in 2018. Meanwhile, one in four people will be aged 65 or over by 2050, compared to just one in five currently.
The ‘Living Longer and Old-Age Dependency’ report said that the increase in the number of older people in work meant that the idea of older people being supported by younger workers was no longer true.
Sarah Crofts, spokeswoman for the ONS Centre for Ageing and Demography, said: “Thinking about the implications of our ageing population is complex. There are many different ways to measure these and our analysis considers a new approach that includes how our society is changing as a result of people living longer lives.
“Our ageing population is frequently thought of as a concern, assuming that older people are being economically supported by younger people of working age. But increasingly, this is not the case. People are working until later in life, continuing to contribute economically. International migration adds more people of working age to the population, which slows down the rate that our population is ageing, but it is the rising numbers of older workers that is having the most impact.”
Experts said that although many over-65s want to continue working, employers do not always realise the benefits of hiring older people.
Professor Wendy Loretto, Dean of the University of Edinburgh Business School, said: “As our population ages, helping people extend their working lives makes sense from both economic and personal wellbeing points of view. However, what I’ve found is that there’s often a gap between employers and employees’ understanding of the opportunities and practicalities of working in later life.
“When it comes to recruiting and retraining people 50 and older, many companies don’t know where to find the right candidates, and many employees believe no one else would want to hire them if they lost their current job.
She added: “A major finding is the importance of flexible working to capitalise on our expanding ‘older’ workforce. A renewed focus on flexibility will help individuals balance their paid work with other activities, such as volunteering and caring, and offer employers the means to take advantage of the older talent pool. It’s an issue that is moving up the agenda in business and government as we cannot afford to be complacent.”
Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “More and more people are choosing to work longer, because they love their jobs, enjoy the social side or don’t feel ready to retire. They bring huge benefits to workplaces, with a wealth of experience and skills and often provide valuable mentoring to younger workers.
“While it’s often a positive choice, our research shows that increasing numbers of 40-64 year olds feel unprepared for retirement and put it off for financial reasons. We’d like to see every worker offered a Career MOT at the age of 50 to help them prepare for their later working lives.
He added: “It’s also worrying that too many older employees still face discrimination in the workplace. We’d like to see more workplaces committing to being age-inclusive, and realising the benefits of supporting older workers. This could include more flexibility, opportunities for ongoing training, and support for those with caring responsibilities.”
Steve Wilkie, managing director of retirement mortgage experts Responsible Life, said: “Forget the blue rinse brigade — 60 is the new 40 and it’s inevitable that our sprightly 60-somethings are going to keep calm and carry on in every area of their lives.”