For 16 years as the Executive Director of Cancer and Careers, a nonprofit for working people with cancer, I promoted flexible work options for people with cancer. So when I had the opportunity to join Paul Rupert to help launch a new initiative to promote phased and flexible retirement options and end age discrimination in the workplace, it felt like the perfect extension of my work at Cancer and Careers as well as a meaningful new challenge.
I was drawn to work with Paul for a few reasons. He and I had worked together years ago to develop tools to help employers better support their employees with cancer. And I had my own experience to confirm that Paul knew his stuff: he set up my successful flexible work arrangement when I relocated from New York City to Boulder, Colorado, some thirteen years ago.
And most importantly, the Respectful Exits mission resonates with me on a personal level. My father worked until he was nearly 75, as a commercial real estate developer and property manager. After decades of managing the properties, he knew every tenant, parking lot attendant, and restaurant manager. His regular visits with each provided him with funny stories, connections, news, and lifelong buddies. When he retired, he lost all of that—and without it, he also lost focus and vigor. Turns out he just wasn’t cut out for a retirement of golf and gardening. Retirement even earlier, at the standard age of 65, would have deprived him, his company, and his community with a decade of added productivity and contributions. And his extended work life provided him with purpose.
I also realize that it’s not just people in their 60s and 70s who need to be thinking both about what retirement should look like and when it should happen. As a woman in my early 50s, I have already begun to worry about how age will affect my own career and future job prospects—and so have my friends. We are not ready to leave work anytime soon—but our choices are at great risk of being narrowed for us. One friend recounted to me that during a recent job interview, her millennial interviewer lamented: “But you don’t have any digital experience.” My friend, at age 50, has had decades of experience as well as many accolades as a producer in TV, news, cable and documentaries (short form, long form, she really has done it all). She bit her tongue and patiently told him that traditional media, digital media—all of it was storytelling.'As a woman in my early 50s, I have already begun to worry about how age will affect my own career and future job prospects—and so have my friends.' Click To Tweet
Like my dad, neither of us is anywhere near ready for decades of golf and gardening. We have experience and passion that we plan to put to work for a long time to come, so it’s imperative we take action now to ensure we’re not pushed out well before we’re ready.
…. And It’s Universal
“Cancer touches nearly everyone,” I’ve said many times in my work with Cancer and Careers, to illustrate the widespread effects of better work options for those with cancer. I’ll say the same for aging: Centennials, Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers, we are all getting older. And after decades of punching in, working hard, and giving back, we deserve a secure future. We deserve Respectful Exits.