British Columbia

How to keep your career healthy while you age, according to a psychologist

Workers face many challenges when they enter the later stages of their career, says Jennifer Newman.

Workers face many challenges when they enter the later stages of their career, says Jennifer Newman

Keeping up with your mental and physical health is key to succeeding late in your career, says workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman. (Max Whittaker/Reuters)

Canadians are living longer than ever — and they're working for a lot longer too.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's economic advisory committee recommended the government increase the retirement age in order to boost the national economy.

Meanwhile, many seniors are behind on their retirement planning, due in large part to financial concerns, according to a recent RBC study.

Workplace columnist Jennifer Newman says late-career work is an inevitability for many, and it can be difficult. She joined host Rick Cluff on CBC's The Early Edition to talk about some of the problems workers face — and how they can stay sharp.

What are some of the unique challenges facing late-career workers?

As the workforce ages, employers are increasingly focussed on figuring out how to retain, manage and motivate older workers. To be competitive, organizations need older workers's energy and expertise.

They need late-career workers to remain highly productive and engaged — and this challenges middle-aged workers to be increasingly proactive at work.

This includes continually networking, updating and adding new skills to the repertoire and actively seeking out feedback and taking initiative — while paying closer attention to their health and focusing on their future financial wellbeing and
retirement planning.

What are the effects of juggling these demands, on late-career workers?

While some may experience things as business-as-usual, others may struggle.

Networking can feel quite uncomfortable for some and branching out in your late-career can feel outside the comfort zone. As well, gaining new skills can feel daunting.

There may be a lack of confidence, or a fear of exposure that makes it feel harder at this career stage.

Late-career workers will need to keep looking for their next career goal. This can be difficult because they may have a feeling of trying to wind things down — not climb the next mountain.

Also, actively seeking feedback can feel scary. Some may see it as beneath them or weak, especially if it comes from a worker who is younger.

You mentioned staying healthy and focussing on retirement planning, at this stage in one's career can present an added challenge, why is that?

In addition to having to be increasingly proactive at work, there is a need for late-career workers to put an emphasis
on their own health.

This provides the energy to be proactive and guards against poor health later in life.

But focussing on regular exercise and a good diet takes time and planning.

And emphasizing mental health is key too. It doesn't hurt to speak to a psychologist or your EAP during
the late-career phase.

Focussing on one's body and mind keeps late-career workers healthy.

But it all takes time.

How can late-career workers manage all this?

Take advantage of any health and wellness programs sponsored by your company.

Get involved in the organization's walking/running program, or sign on for a gym membership.

Attend screening days if they are held at your company and focus on your diet. Ask your Doctor for assistance.

Suggest your organization hold financial planning lunch and learns for different age groups.

Examine your mindset — longevity research indicates learning new skills or taking on a challenge can increase one's lifespan and keep workers mentally sharp.

Adopt a beginner's mind to tasks you have done over a lifetime — you may discover something new.

Find ways to stay open and curious, And make getting enough sleep a priority.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition