Rotorua Chamber of Commerce's chief executive Bryce Heard is one of about 16,300 Bay people aged 65 or older still in the workforce. He talks to reporter Zoe Hunter about what the 'retirement age' means to him.
Bryce Heard says there is no such thing as retirement age in 2021.
The Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive says the term is a hangover from a bygone age.
It's a term from a time when people's working lives were a tightly regimented 40 hours a week, one job for life, join the union, go to work at the same shop, office or factory at 8am every morning, and home at 5pm every night, he says.
"At the end, we were given a gold watch and a handshake and sent off to become a ward of the state until we died – which many did, prematurely.
"Retirement took away our reason to get out of bed and contribute to society, so there was not a lot of other options."
Today's world is very different.
"For many of us of all ages, work today is an exercise in multitasking, working at multiple places on multiple projects, utilising new technologies, constantly seeking new challenges to stay fresh and energised, working for multiple 'employers' including and especially ourselves," Heard says.
"Short, fixed-term contracts are mainstream, and each represents a new start and a new chapter in a more rewarding and fulfilling working life.
"Our learning never ends. These are some of the reasons that people are living longer. We no longer choose to decide that our lives are over, and it is time to rest - and shut down."
Heard says it is so much more fun to be over 65 years old today than it must have been for earlier generations.
He was surprised only 27 per cent of the Bay's over 65-year-olds were working but says it's not surprising numbers were higher than 10 years ago.
"Most older people have got beyond the need to prove to the world that they are smart and capable, and are driven more by 'what is best for the wider benefit' and less by 'what is best for me'.
"This makes older people fall into the more dependable group and make excellent employees."
Heard says there are fewer personal agendas, and more open and honest appraisals and debates with older people than we get with the ambition of youth.
"Unless you are older, this will be difficult to comprehend as working for oneself's best interests become ingrained in our behaviours and attitudes and we do it without realising what our motives for our actions actually are."
Older people, he says, do not have the need to build reputations and careers, so can apply themselves to targeting what is best for the wider benefit of all affected parties.
Heard says there is also the wisdom of life's experiences within the kaumātua of society, coupled with a willingness to address unpopular or controversial issues without fear of personal career consequences.
"For me, the older we get, the more we value and care about the future of the world, our own mokopuna and in fact the whole question of kaitiakitanga.
"We become much more prepared to seek and implement changes for the betterment of the future, when we feel that we are leaving our legacy for future generations, and this is a very powerful motivator – much stronger than financial gain."
Heard says as an older person he questions why a healthy person capable of making a worthwhile contribution feels the need to "retire".
"There is no right age to retire. It will be different for every person and every situation," he says.
"For me making a meaningful contribution to the society that I know and love far outweighs any need for monetary or personal gain and like many, I want to continue to contribute for as long as I am capable, wanted, and needed."