Unretirement is about to become a trend – Part 1

Deborah Wilson


Spoiler: Unretirement Is About To Become a Trend (If It Isn’t Already) — Part 1

‘Unretirement’. It’s not a word that rolls off the tip of the tongue. However, I am convinced the business world is about to get more familiar with the term.

In the spirit of embracing new technology, I typed ‘Define unretirement’ into ChatGPT (the artificial intelligence robot that’s been making headlines since late last year), and this was the result:

‘Unretirement’ is a word in the English language. It refers to a scenario where someone who had previously retired from work either goes back to work part-time or full-time or starts a new career/job after leaving the workforce formally.

What a topic! I’ll start by sharing my own experience and personal perspective. While we seem to have a ‘magic’ number that indicates it’s time for us to leave the workforce for good, I find the closer I get to what I thought was that number, the less I feel it’s time to retire. For transparency, I’m over 60 and… so what?

Here’s what I know for sure. I enjoy my work. I feel connected with the people around me and my contribution at work. I share similar values with the people I work with, and we’re aligned in our vision. I don’t have any reason to retire. In my books, being 60 means nothing more than having another milestone birthday to look forward to.

I constantly question where the last 10 or 20 years of my life went. At OnTalent, I am the eldest. Do I feel being the most senior comes with added responsibilities? No, but perhaps I am naturally a reasonably responsible person. Corporate fitness has always been a priority. This means:

·   I remain up-to-date in my field of work (I believe we’re always learning)

·   I’m capable of doing what I need and want to do physically with ease (I recognise we can’t necessarily control all aspects of our physical health)

·   My work energises me (that comes with making a contribution I feel matters)

Many people think that once people hit their 60s, they must be thinking about retirement. The reality is many of us don’t plan our lives so far in advance and have no desire to. We may have ideas about what we think we want to do, but often, life evolves. Opportunity is a wonderful thing, and when we remain open to possibilities, opportunities find us. I anticipate more mature aged workers will return to the workforce in some capacity in the next few years.

If you find yourself contemplating a return to the workforce post-retirement and are unsure of how to feel about it, in 2021, I did something I felt was brave at the time. I asked several senior executives about being over 60 in the workforce. The being ‘brave’ part came because, with a few people, I took a gamble in terms of how old they are (it’s not the kind of question one typically asks).

Here are a couple of excerpts and insights into what people shared with me:


“Mentally, I am not ready for retirement. I still enjoy interacting with people and leading an organisation. In my view, I am a far better CEO at 62 than I was at 32 years old! Being able to draw on life experiences and apply them as needed is a real asset.”


“I can’t ever imagine not working. I need the stimulus and business challenges for my intellectual elasticity and curiosity”.

Perhaps 60 is the new 50! With the cost of living crisis at play, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), many people won’t have the option to retire or remain retired in the years to come. This means finding work you consider meaningful and rewarding is more important than ever.

That said, the best time to consider retirement is while you’re still in the workforce. Filling 40 hours a week can feel daunting (I’m talking from experience). However, with how people work rapidly evolving (part-time options; job sharing; contracting; four-day work weeks; remote work; and flexibility), now is an ideal time to look ahead. Write your future with what you want in mind. Ensure you leave a legacy regardless. Engage in mentoring and gift the knowledge and experience you’ve had the opportunity to generate to someone else.

Are you contemplating unretirement? Do you have plans for your retirement? Share your thoughts.

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746.

Stay Connected

More Updates

Ontalent Connecting People & Purpose

SignUp To Our Talent Insights!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.