So there you are. It’s 30 plus years on, family has grown up, the mortgage is paid off, you’re fairly comfortable and reasonably fit, still in the same job after 20-odd years – well things are not that easy for older workers however well qualified to move around from job to job. Better to keep head down mouth shut and keep buggering on, as Churchill said.
The job’s not that bad, true the new entrants are younger, much younger than you, younger than your own kids, but in the main everyone works together quite well. At your yearly assessment by that young woman from H.R, you scored very well, although you were a bit thrown when she asked where you saw yourself in the company in 10 years.
The company went through a couple of hard times which were a bit worrying. Two ‘take overs’ and a ‘management buyout’ then a sale to the present owners, a big company owned by a hedge fund. Then came the call from Don, the Director of H.R. as it’s called now. It used to be two people but it’s a department now with lots of staff, mostly it must be said going on about diversity, equality, anti-bullying, personal goals and professional standards and development. Anyway, could I spare a moment for a chat? “Chat?” That’s when life changed.
There was going to be a reorganisation, your present role would disappear and there would be some redundancies. There would, of course, be other opportunities ‘commensurate’ (nice word that, sounds like something a used car dealer would write in a description) with your seniority and salary, but the new roles would be at a much reduced rate of pay and the perks – car, health insurance and so on, would go. Additionally, in line with the organisation’s equality procedures, the jobs would all be advertised, and you would have to apply.
The other option was redundancy. “No need to make a decision right away. What we’d like to offer you is a month’s gardening leave, starting now, to help you decide. Dyson will help you clear your things and take you home because, I’m afraid all the company cars are being withdrawn. But do keep in touch during the leave and if there is anything we can do.” I’m sure many would have heard the same speech.
So that was it.
What to do? Well financially, thanks to the lump sum redundancy package and a month’s paid gardening leave, not too pressing at the moment and the pension, although not allowing for a carefree lifestyle, will be adequate. Savings well enough to get by on, bolstered by having lived in the same house for 30 years and paid the mortgage off long ago. If the worst comes to the worst the house value has soared and the spouse has a salaried job which will take care of the living expenses.
First things first though. Get another car, something nice on a par with what we used to have on ‘the firm’ so as not to let the neighbours’ comment, and then a holiday. So that takes care of the first few weeks. Then doing some gardening, getting a few quotes for jobs around the house, coffee and lunch out in various shopping centre venues and garden centre cafes – many of which look like the restaurant or resident’s lounge in an old folk’s care home.
After then it starts to get just a little bit depressing, as even at the golf club conversation seems to centre on who’s ill or died, or somebody’s blow by blow account of their latest trip to see the doctor, scan, or worse treatment for some awful medical problem. Then one beautiful summer’s day, the restaurant played host to a ‘wake’. That’s it. You’re 63, for goodness sake, even the French say that old age starts at 68 so I made my excuses and left.
Time was you could scan the sits vac in the papers when seeking a job, but now it’s mostly online, with hundreds of jobs advertised daily. Trouble was that none were in my line of work or anywhere near my salary level. Staffing agencies? Hanna was very encouraging and said my C.V was very impressive but unfortunately there was nothing they had on the books which would suit at the moment. That’s shorthand for ‘you are over-qualified or too old’.
Written applications took ages, cost a fortune and were never acknowledged. Maybe the recipients were frightened of the competition, or they thought an older person would be unreliable. Not evidenced of course as the reality is that older people are usually much more reliable and don’t have more time off as they appear not to struggle with their work/life balance.
Now I know people in their 50s and 60s who just give up at that point. Reasonably well off, they can’t be bothered with the hassle and refuse to ‘embrace’ the latest technology or can’t cope with working at a lower level or working for somebody 20 years younger and not as well qualified. The thing is, though, most are going to be ‘retired’ for 30-plus years. That’s a long time to sit around discussing how the world was a much better place or how one thing or another was better and how now nobody seems to be bothered about quality or service or some other issue. I fully accept that some people will be quite happy to do this, particularly if you have a reasonable pension and savings.
Routine is good for most people. Being a cog in the company, even if just a small cog, is good for the self-confidence. It gives a purpose which is why our ‘retiree’ found himself volunteering. There are lots of opportunities, particularly working with older people, (not what our friend wanted; his own parents, as they aged, needed more of his time). Something a bit more lively perhaps? Even if low paid. Which is why, one morning, he found himself walking into a super store to apply for a temporary part time Christmas sales job.
(Warning! Don’t think of doing this if you are short on patience or quick to anger at the ‘very important people’ who think it’s fun to talk down to the sales people or blame you personally for the fact that their super widget broke the first time they used it.) It does have its advantages though, the team much younger than our friend, from a wide variety of backgrounds, were friendly and enthusiastic. Our friend was soon part of the team and quite often asked for advice on this or that, sort of a free staff confidant mentor.