LIFE AFTER 60? by Liz Watt

A highlight of my week last week was attending the Guardian Live event at Sadler’s Wells, in which Guardian journalist Charlotte Higgins was in conversation with Mary Beard, the renowned scholar, classicist and TV presenter, currently on our screens fronting the BBC  TV documentary Civilisations. The event was to discuss  her ‘Life in Classics’ and in  a lively and  wide ranging conversation, one of the biggest cheers of the night came when Beard asserted very positively that rest assured, there was life and opportunity aplenty for women over 60!

Not only did this statement resonate with the women in the audience fast approaching or at this milestone age, but interestingly it’s a sentiment that also resonated with the many younger women in the audience too. As Higgins states in her in depth profile of Beard in the Guardian,  ‘Beard has become the standard-bearer for middle aged women, and beloved by the young – indeed by anyone who wants to be seen in terms of their ideas, not their looks’.  A positive role model to women of all ages is pretty unique and  her late-blossoming career shatters the myth that age is something to be feared, that career highlights can only happen when you are young.

This message is especially encouraging in an age when it is very likely that an individuals’  working  life  is likely to extend beyond the traditional age of retirement.  Financial practicalities, combined with an evolving attitude to  health, well-being, and the opportunities available to those over 60 , means that many women – and men – will continue to work in some shape or form beyond the state pension age.  Mary Beard  is open about the fact that her career hasn’t followed a conventional upward trajectory  –  there  have been diversions and pauses on route –  but these would appear to have simply added to the richness of experience that sees her flourishing in the unforgiving worlds of academia and the  media right now.

This has got to send out a positive message to all those people contemplating the prospect of ‘retirement’ and what that might mean to them. The message is that there is the scope to continue using the expertise and knowledge one has gained in ones professional life, but maybe in a different or hitherto unexplored way.  Maybe part time work, consultancy or using those skills to retrain in another area can provide the space and time to follow other passions, develop new interests, volunteer – the options are many and varied.  And her example of life- long learning and curiosity is surely to be applauded. The key fact seems to be that hitting the age of 60 does not need to mean a closing down of opportunity, but rather the chance to re-frame and reinvigorate ones future path.

So what did I take away from this invigorating exchange of ideas? Well,  it reaffirmed my belief that there is a wealth of possibility for anyone reaching this milestone age;  that contrary to received wisdom, one can still have a successful and rewarding career even if it doesn’t follow a conventional path; that there is ever increasing fluidity between working life and retirement.  And if Mary’s example can not only inspire those in her peer group, but provide a role model to younger women too, then that really is something to celebrate.

I am an Executive Coach with a particular interest in the issues facing those approaching retirement, and also in helping women at significant points of career change. If you would like further information on my FutureLife retirement coaching programme, or would like to discuss how I might help you negotiate career change, please contact me : bltcoaching1@gmail.com or on Twitter or Linkedin.

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