How has COVID affected the working lives of people over the age of 50?
The impact of COVID on the over 50s was (and still is) extensive, affecting everything from work and future plans, to financial security and social activities.
When COVID first became prevalent in the UK in March 2020, one of the earliest pieces of information we were told about the virus was that it was more likely to affect older people than younger people.
Those in their 70s and 80s were said to be most at risk from the virus, labelled ‘vulnerable’, and warned to be more cautious than other age groups. Care homes closed to visitors, families tried to distance themselves from older relatives, and the elderly were effectively encouraged to disengage with society. Thankfully, as restrictions start to ease, those limitations have been lifted and life is beginning to return to ‘almost’ normality.
But how did COVID impact those in their 50s and 60s? Not old enough to be kept at arm's length, and for many, young enough to still be working full time, the over 50s found their work, home lives and social lives altering dramatically.
Working from Home Challenges
56% of 50 to 70 year olds are employed and for many working from home was a huge change. Using technology to complete tasks often wasn’t an issue, but the jobs themselves became less enjoyable, and more ‘flat’ without human interaction.
Despite these downsides, losing the morning commute and having more time to spend doing other things, was wholeheartedly welcomed by many over 50s.
As with other generations, many over 50s lost their jobs due to COVID. A lack of support for older people who lost their jobs during the pandemic may have resulted in many over 50s leaving the workforce for good. The fall in employment of the over 50s is almost double those affected in the 25 to 49 year old age group.
Generally, older workers have always found it harder to secure new work than younger job seekers, and the COVID pandemic seems to have exacerbated that gap. As a result of losing their job, some over 50s are likely to have taken early retirement with less money than they would have expected, and others may be forced to work for longer in order to make up for any monetary losses.
However, for those who retained full time jobs during the pandemic, many felt supported by their employers and didn’t experience any discrimination because of their age.
Appreciating the Little Things
When the Stay at Home guidance was issued, and WFH became the norm, our worlds became smaller. For some, staying at home helped to encourage stronger bonds between family members. With more time in the same space, there were more opportunities to eat together, socialise, or just stop to have a chat.
Living in green or rural areas became a much greater source of joy, and many people began to embrace and appreciate the beauty on their doorsteps. From enjoying walks in the park to our own back gardens, it was the little things that became important.
Creating a Greater Sense of Community
The surge in popularity of the Zoom video calling platform was evident across all generations, and thanks to the pandemic 75% of over 50s are now video calling more. Used as both a practical way to communicate with work colleagues, and an alternative to socialising in person, video calls helped us all stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues.
Zoom quizzes with colleagues may have begun to get tedious by the end of 2020, but at the start of the pandemic there’s no doubt that they were a welcome distraction from the depressing news stories!
Campaigns like ‘Clap for Carers’ generated local pockets of community spirit that lifted everyone’s mood. Standing on our doorsteps might not have been a typical Thursday night activity before the pandemic, but when life came to a standstill, interacting with neighbours helped lots of us to re-engage with our surroundings.
In fact, 30% of people began doing some sort of volunteering in their local area, like collecting shopping for elderly relatives and neighbours.
The Future of Work for over 50s
Inevitably, the pandemic has altered the way we think about the future - and the way we think about work.
For some, working shorter days or more flexible hours has resulted in more time to focus on how they really want to spend their time. Whether that’s investing in family relationships, volunteering in the local community, or simply spending more time outdoors, it’s clear that COVID has shifted our perspective on what a working day should look like.
Despite COVID negatively impacting the lives of over 50s, with everything from jobs and socialising to mental health and money a concern, most remain positive and 56% are hopeful for the coming months.
If you’ve started to think about changing careers but you don’t know where to start, we can help you understand how your current skills and experience can be transferred to another sector. Feel free to get in touch to find out more!