Commentary: Yes, you can peak in your career in your sixties

SINGAPORE: In every single place round us, there are individuals who hit their “peak” late in life.

Charles Darwin was 50 earlier than he printed On the Origin of the Species in 1859. Colonel Sanders was 65 when he based Kentucky Fried Hen.

Bernhard Langer, now 63, remains to be profitable skilled golf tournaments with 11 senior main championships below his belt.

However peaking is probably not fairly the fitting phrase, because it suggests an inevitable decline. Some individuals appear to go on without end.

That is most likely finest summed up by the irrepressible George Burns, the American comic who, on reaching his a centesimal birthday was quoted as saying:

If I had identified I used to be going to stay this lengthy, I might have taken higher care of myself.

READ: Commentary: Corporations and staff, overlook life earlier than COVID-19. Funds 2021 will assist us put together for all times after it

READ: Commentary: Singapore’s daring wager on seniors and priceless years of life expertise


This could supply encouragement because the world’s inhabitants grows older at a quicker price than at some other interval in our historical past.

Singapore is not any exception. The life expectancy of females has elevated from 63 in 1955 to 86.2 right now.

Males have seen a corresponding improve from 57.5 to 82.1. The age dependency ratio is round 22 per cent.

A bunch of seniors enjoying the normal sport of chapteh in Singapore. Photograph taken from the Singapore Chapteh Fb web page. 

This ratio is ready to extend going ahead, with a fertility price of 1.14 properly beneath substitute charges. By 2030, one in 4 Singaporeans will probably be 65 or older.


Within the wake of the pandemic, unemployment ticked up in Singapore, with total unemployment up from 2.3 per cent in 2019 to three per cent in 2020.

And as corporations pivot to deal with recent challenges and undertake new applied sciences, staff of all ages ought to anticipate huge adjustments to how they work.

As a matter of reality, Grant Thornton’s latest survey, the Worldwide Enterprise Report 2020, revealed that restructuring the workforce was the principle enterprise precedence for 2021 for 46 per cent of respondents in Singapore.

READ: Commentary: It’s excessive time for a Ministry on Ageing Points

World wide nevertheless, empirically, not solely are middle-aged and older staff extra more likely to endure job loss. It is usually this group that can discover it more durable than their youthful counterparts to safe a brand new one.

Age discrimination within the office is against the law as per Singapore’s employment regulation. But it appears to be a extensively accepted notion that older staff should not as productive, as technologically savvy or as agile as their youthful counterparts.

Folks additionally appear to imagine, for some motive, that they’re costlier to rent. This considerably unfounded view of “ageism” has acquired to go.

READ: Commentary: Look ahead to informal ageism and different indicators of caustic attitudes about older staff


Singapore’s macro developments present the opposite. Immediately, six out of 10 staff in Singapore are 40 or older.

An elderly worker in Singapore
An aged employee in Singapore. (File photograph: TODAY)

Nevertheless, over the previous decade, Singapore’s productiveness has elevated by a major 30 per cent. As an alternative of hindering the nation’s progress in automation and digitalisation, this older inhabitants has arguably carried out the other and helped propel its success.

A part of this will likely have arisen with the nation’s push for digitalisation, complemented by reskilling initiatives that hold all staff, young and old, present.

However older staff have pure strengths employers ought to respect. A latest research by the American Affiliation of Retired Individuals on the worldwide workforce, confirms older staff are typically extra productive, mature, engaged and have decrease charges of turnover and absenteeism than youthful staff.

READ: Commentary: Encourage seniors in digitalisation drive as a substitute of forcing tech adoption on them

A extra mature workforce brings the incomparable benefit of years of expertise, subject material experience, and problem-solving capabilities.

It is usually more likely to show higher ranges of professionalism, have a longtime community to faucet into whereas shunning disruptive “job-hopping”.

A number of years in the past, a head-hunter pal stated that if he had his approach, he wouldn’t rent anybody below 50, largely for these causes. I agreed with him on the time, but in addition agreed to maintain this view our secret.

However the different benefit older staff carry is the flexibility to information and mentor youthful workers and provides them that “leg-up” that solely studying the arduous approach might in any other case have achieved.

READ: Commentary: Seniors do properly at their jobs but ageist myths and damaging stereotypes persist


Once I first arrived in Singapore in 1991, I used to be greatly surprised to see the retirement age of companions in our (then) Large 5 agency was 55. This appeared like a fairly quick runway to retirement.

smiling happy old elderly couple
(Photograph: Unsplash/Jaddy Liu)

Coming from the UK, as I had, the place male retirement age was 65, it struck me that 55 was when try to be getting the engines began. It was simply not smart on the a part of corporations to ignore all that expertise and expertise.

Once I reached that tender age myself, retirement cut-off had slid out to a extra respectable (however nonetheless extremely younger) 58.

Slightly than lie on a seashore till I met my maker, I felt I wanted to do one thing to maintain the gray matter on tip-top kind.

I ran my very own profitable and fulfilling tax consultancy follow for greater than 5 years and finally joined Grant Thornton at 64, due to the agency’s uncommon, visionary “no retirement age” coverage. It was a V-shaped restoration, you would say.

READ: Commentary: If extra work in previous age, how related is the retirement age?

These of us within the tax and accounting occupation are fairly lucky. Our work is essentially cerebral. This has a three-fold profit.

By spending the day downside fixing, I receives a commission, the previous mind will get a very good little bit of train and I can all the time bear in mind the place I left my keys.

These in different roles is probably not so fortunate. Clearly, the extra you progress to jobs requiring much less brainpower and extra guide labour, the extra you would see a deterioration in efficiency as age creeps up.

Nevertheless, this needn’t be an insurmountable downside, with acceptable thought and maybe re-assignment and the redesign of roles to faucet on the sting older staff do have: Expertise and knowledge.

READ: Commentary: Navigating the brand new highway to fashionable elderhood


Whereas the Authorities’s plan to carry ahead the extension of the retirement age and its subsidies for enhancing help for older staff to be re-employed through the Senior Employee Adopter Grant and the Half Time Re-employment Grant is welcome, rather a lot nonetheless must be carried out to battle the “ageist mentality” in society and to provide the older inhabitants their due.

Elderly woman face mask Singapore senior citizen
An aged lady sporting a protecting face masks pushes a cart in Singapore on Could 8, 2020. (Photograph: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

I bear in mind a lot of years in the past, B&Q, the DIY residence retailer within the UK, did away with the idea of retirement age and has been working efficiently like this for over 20 years. 

It began with an experiment in considered one of its shops which solely employed individuals above 50 (an unacceptable type of reverse ageism right now I’m positive).

They discovered that income have been 18 per cent greater than different shops, workers turnover six instances decrease, a 39 per cent decrease than ordinary absenteeism and 58 per cent much less “shrinkage” i.e., pilfering.

A 2006 Harvard Enterprise Evaluate research by human capital luminaries Josh Bersin and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic reveals that information and experience – the principle predictors of job efficiency – hold growing even past the age of 80.

READ: Commentary: Older staff susceptible to rising tide of retrenchment as ageist mindsets persist

On this, ageist companies are lacking out on a giant benefit. A well-balanced and complementary workforce of younger and previous will beat the market each time.

A overwhelming majority of human developments might be attributed to teamwork and analysis proves that one of the simplest ways to maximise workforce output is to extend cognitive range, which is considerably extra more likely to happen with individuals of various ages working collectively.

At 65 now, I’m nonetheless studying new issues daily, and hopefully, instructing a factor or two in return.

Peaking? The engines are simply beginning.

LISTEN: A labour MP, a enterprise group chief and an economist break down the shifts underway in Singapore’s Funds 2021 on CNA’s Coronary heart of the Matter podcast:


David Sandison is Singapore Apply Chief & Head of Taxation at Grant Thornton Singapore.

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