Serious adult businessman at work in office
Serious adult businessman at work in office

Are you part of the unretirement?

BABY boomers, whose current ages fall within the 55 to 75 bracket, are happily outing themselves as failed retirees and forming part of a new and growing movement - variously called the unretirement, re-wirement, re-aspirement or the re-hirement bandwagon - by denoting a return to the workforce in some shape or form.

Generation Unretired, Generation U or just Gen U'ers are taking a newer and fresher perspective and revisiting, reimagining and reinventing that third and final phase of their lives.

Just as our day-to-day pre-retirement life can no longer be divided into work and personal because they blur into one, Gen U'ers take the view that retirement no longer simply means you have to stop work. Just a decade ago, 10 per cent of people aged 65 to 85 were part of the labour force. By the last census in 2016 this figure had increased to 15 per cent and experts believe it will be at least 20 per cent by 2020.

It would be easy to conclude the main reason for the growing Gen U movement is retirees' realisation that bankrolling a quality retirement dream is a lot more costly than anticipated.

While retirement funding is a consideration for some retirees, it is only one piece of a much larger jigsaw puzzle.

Continuing to earn a pay cheque, even if a slender one, does allow some extra financial advantages. And people are living longer and remaining healthier so are able to continue to work and postpone retirement.

However, experts now believe an increasing number of retirees unretire because they found retirement was not all it was cracked up to be, despite the new-found freedom to chill.

Many retirees underestimate the fact the workplace is a community made up of challenges, collegiality and accomplishments.

When they disconnect from a work community, many discover a social engagement gap that appears as big as life itself.

Perhaps this scenario is all too familiar - on Friday, a choreographed retirement function, teary speeches and the long, emotional goodbyes. The following Monday - nothing.

Some re-join the workplace on a full-time basis though most will pursue phased retirement arrangements, bridge-jobs, part-time work, contract labour and temp jobs while others will start their own businesses.

According to many experts, part-time work or even temp jobs provide Gen U'ers with much-needed social engagement without removing the perks of regular downtime.

But joining the unretiring craze is not without its challenges.

Many in the 50-plus age bracket say that if you give up a great workplace position you will struggle to find something else - not least because ageism is alive and well.

Ageism brings with it stereotyped and erroneous views including that those returning to the workforce are greedy, cashed-up geezers who ought to make way for younger workers. There are also misplaced views that older workers are technophobes, resistant to change, injury prone and take more sick leave.

The truth, however, is that if we embrace the growing unretirement movement then employers will benefit, society will be richer and the entire community will receive a financial dividend - as we save on delayed or reduced pension pay-outs.

So what is not to like about the Gen U movement?

Gary Martin is a workplace culture expert with the Australian Institute of Management.