Don't tell Oscar-winning actor Christopher Walken he should retire. At 73, he's appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows that have grossed a total of more than $1.5bn at the box office.

His latest turn is as King Louie in The Jungle Book and, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, he said he wasn't sure that actors retire: "Actors are like athletes: you don't retire, you get retired."

They're not alone. One in five New Zealanders are still working past retirement age and that number is set to rise to one in three over the next 15 years.

We rank at the top of 34 OECD countries featured in PwC's Golden Age Index of workers aged 55 and over. Its report said countries could add billions of dollars to their coffers if they followed best practice in harnessing the potential of older workers.


But there's the rub: New Zealand social scientist Carole Gordon, herself working in her 70s, says while plenty of over-65s are employed, we're not doing enough to support them.

"The reports and policy statements you read about around these issues show we are way behind; we are not inclusive of older people in society. It's an attitude and a values thing.
"From an employment point of view, we have a long way to go to create the best environment for them," she says.

The Commission for Financial Capability asked people at the Active Retirees Expo in Tauranga what number came to mind when they thought about older workers. The overwhelming majority plumped for 65-70 and some went even higher.

Just one person said 60 - and he was a 19-year-old staffing a stand at the expo who thought 40 years of work was more than enough.

There are many reasons why people continue working past 65, sometimes because they have to financially but many also want to.

David Boyle, the Commission's investor education group manager, says: "Plenty of people at the retirees expo told us they still feel young and carry on working because they enjoy it; it gives them a reason to get up in the morning and, just like younger workers, they thrive on the social interaction and sense of purpose."

"But this isn't just about individuals; the country benefits from an active older workforce and the skills and experience they bring."

The Commission is focusing on the subject this month as part of the Retirement Commissioner's three-yearly review of retirement income policies and is running a quick and simple survey on its website.


It wants to hear from New Zealanders about how they view their later years, whether they are working, or intend to, past 65 and their suggestions for what could help them do so.

The PwC report recognised an older population has changing needs and called on businesses to think about how they can enable people to keep working longer if they wish. It suggested increased flexibility, training, job re-design, career breaks and the opportunity to change roles.

The same kind of issues are being covered at a forum being run by the commission in Auckland later this month.

As for Christopher Walken, he quoted his favourite actor John Gielgud who was in his 90s when he was invited to a party by Britain's royal family to celebrate his birthday.

"He had to call back and say, 'I'm sorry, I can't, I'm on location shooting.' I really like that story. I think that's the way to go."

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