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Why Older Aussies Are Staying Working Longer And Not Retiring

A growing number of older Australians are bucking the trend of retirement, and having a career resurgence later in life.

The Council on the Ageing reported only a third of Australians aged over 55 are still in the workforce, but the tide is changing and a growing number are now working well into what is usually considered 'retirement age'.

"Particularly women who've taken time off to care for children are quite often looking to come back to the workforce in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond," said Council on the Ageing South Australia chief executive, Jane Mussared.

Some are forced to stay working out of financial need, not being able to rely on the pension or superannuation just yet, but many others simply enjoy work -- and the social or psychological benefits it can bring -- and don't want to give it up.

Stock image. Photo: Getty

Mussared said a large number of older workers are staving off retirement so they can stay "continuing to have a social group, continuing to make a contribution".

"(There are) lots of benefits for individuals, but lots of benefits too for our community because this is a group of people with lots of experience, lots of skills," she said.

Kathy Fox is starting a new career as a marriage celebrate. Photo: 10 News First

South Australian grandmother Kathy Fox is not just staying in the workforce, but embarking on a whole new career in her later years.

Rather than retiring after decades as a hotel and supermarket owner and then nursing home manager, the 65-year-old has just become a civil celebrant.

"I don't think I'm old enough yet to just sit and knit," she said.

"I've still got lots of energy and I've still got something I can contribute to the community."

READ MORE: Young People Pushing Older Women Into Homelessness

Fox said she wants to be a role model to her children and grandchildren, and not rely on social services.

Stock image. Photo: Getty

"Not only that, I enjoy it. I love meeting people, I love socialising and I think that's a really important part of getting older... maintaining some social contact with people," she said.

"I'm not ready just to have people look after me yet. There will come a time when that happens and yes I will accept that but at this stage, I'm still ready to do these things."

As well as conducting services including weddings and baby-naming ceremonies, Fox also still volunteers in the aged care industry.

"We are privileged to be getting older and we need to make the most of it. I think I've got another 20 years left in me yet to get out and make a difference," she said.

Dr Greg Keene isn't retiring just yet. Photo: 10 News First

Surgeon Dr Greg Keene is another experiencing the benefits of staying in the workforce past retirement age. The 74-year-old has performed more than 35,000 knee operations in his long career and is in no hurry to retire.

"I think as long as you keep your skills, your interest and you don't have any health issues, why would you stop doing it, to go and tend to the garden and go on trips? No, I just love it," he says.

"There are very few jobs where someone will look you in the eye and say, 'You've changed my life', in a positive way, and that's pretty rewarding."

Photo: Getty

There are some challenges for older workers though. Advocates want workplaces to invest in training and education for people mid-career, not just those starting out.

Recent studies have found nearly a third of older workers had experienced age discrimination in the past year, while unemployed senior jobseekers took twice as long as their younger counterparts to find work.

"We need to tackle age discrimination. We need to understand what it looks like, and why it happens, and tackle it head-on," Mussared said.

Contact the author: jchapman@networkten.com.au

Feature image: Getty