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Old hands bring fresh approach

By Julia Proverbs

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Peter Edwards, Terry Hurdle and Brian Flynn are all in their 70s - and are all still working.

Despite reaching the "official" retirement age of 65, they have chosen to remain in paid employment.

The three men, who all work at Bunnings Warehouse's Mount Maunganui store, are part of a growing "grey" workforce in the Bay.

Statistics New Zealand figures show that the number of people aged 65 years and older in the Western Bay of Plenty who are still in the workforce steadily increased over a 10-year period.

The most recent Census, in 2006, showed there were 3492 superannuitants who were either paid employees, employers or self employed without employees, accounting for 5 per cent of the area's total workforce.

In 2001 there were 2031, accounting for 3.6 per cent of the workforce and in 1996, there were 1335, making up 2.8 per cent of total workers.

Mr Edwards, 73 moved to Tauranga from Wellington to retire but, after several ventures in the construction industry, ended up at Bunnings working a 40-hour week.

"I have been retired several times," he said.

Although he did not need to work for financial gain, he enjoyed the camaraderie and being able to impart his knowledge.

"This is really quite pleasant. I've lost so many friends not doing anything. Here I get to talk to everybody."

Mr Edwards said more and more older people were choosing to work past 65.

"The ones we talk to, they ask if there's a position."

Mr Hurdle, 70, was a plumber for 55 years, having trained under his father.

He had his own business for about 20 years but gave up the trade after having a four heart bypasses.

He joined the team at Bunnings at his wife Raewyn's suggestion and hasn't looked back.

While not essential, the extra money was put to good use, visiting family in Auckland and Melbourne, he said.

Working also kept him connected with people.

"When you lose your work life, you loose a lot of communication. So many people retire and they have no communication left," he said.

Brian Flynn, 72, retired from the New Zealand Dairy Board at 65 but it didn't last long. After a holiday abroad he started working at Bunnings in Hamilton, where he had lived all his life.

When he and his wife moved to Tauranga he transferred to the Mount Maunganui store.

His doctor had recommended that, with his good health, he keep working, he added.

"He said: 'If I had your heart rate and blood pressure I'd be more than happy ... the longer you can keep working the better it is for you mentally and physically'."

Bunnings complex manager Colene Nicholson said about a quarter of the store's 118 team members were aged 65 and over.

They brought with them life skills, knowledge and values, that were an asset to the company, she said.

"They bring their values with them because they grew up that way," she said.

A two-year investigation by the University of Waikato into keeping older people independent and active was last month given a Government grant of $687,000.

Led by Professor Peggy Koopman-Boyden, it aims to encourage greater independence for older people living alone, increase their productivity and keep them connected in an increasingly digital age.

"We need to understand what constitutes a meaningful life for an older person living on their own and what motivates them to seek independent living," Professor Koopman-Boyden said.

The research will also look at employment, such as part-time and flexible hours that would keep people employed longer.

The number of people over 65 is projected to more than double in the next 24 years.

"Almost half the labour force is already 40 or older and by mid-century the labour force will not be replacing itself," professor Koopman-Boyden said.

"Skills shortages are already emerging so we need to be thinking about improving and maximising the potential of older workers. If they can't contribute to their full economic capacity for any number of reasons, then there are implications not only for their individual futures but for business and society as a whole."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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