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Age Concern backs work beyond age 65

Right direction: Charles Jeffers

A plan to make it easier for people to stay on at work after their 65th birthday was welcomed yesterday. Age Concern Bermuda said the move was “in the right direction” as the island grappled with an ageing population.

But the charity said it wanted more detail on a proposed loan scheme designed to help people grow older in their own homes.

Charles Jeffers, Age Concern deputy chairman, said he was pleased to hear a government proposal that would remove the need for public sector workers to get permission to work past their 65th birthday.

He said: “That’s a move in the right direction.

“As long as people are in good health they should be allowed to continue to work and they should decide when they want to leave.”

The Throne Speech added: “During this session, the order will be tabled to perfect the offer of interest-free loans to those who would support seniors ageing in place.”

Mr Jeffers said: “Certainly, we would have to wait and see what they’re talking about because any time we talk about a loan it means pay back and whether it’s interest-free or not, it’s still got to be paid back. Who is it for and how is it going to be paid back? We need more detail. The moment I hear ‘loan’ my antenna goes up.”

Mr Jeffers was speaking after Throne Speech pledges to look at ways to help seniors. John Rankin, the Governor, who delivered Government’s blueprint for the new session, said the “greying” of society challenges everyone.

He added: “In many cases, the designation ‘senior citizen’ does not describe our energetic men and women aged 65 and older.

The time has come to revise the mandatory retirement age to take account of our longer life span, the necessity to add additional stability to pension funds and to promote greater choice among the working population about when one retires.

“During this session, the legislature will be invited to discuss options for such revisions to the age of mandatory retirement from the public service, which will preserve the right to retire at 65 but permit a post-holder to work beyond that age without the requirement for permission to do so.”

A population projections report by government statisticians published last month showed that almost 25 per cent of residents are expected to be aged 65 or older by 2026, compared to nearly 17 per cent in 2016. The number of seniors for every 100 people of working age was expected to rocket from 24.7 to 39.9 over the same period.

John Barritt, the Bermuda Housing Trust chairman, said a commitment to help older people live in their chosen place, often their own homes, was a “starting point”.

But he added people in the island’s wider employment marketplace would like to see moves to ensure “it is no longer permissible to discriminate against seniors on the basis of age” and “I hope it will go broader than just the public service.”

Government departments will “further support the work of the Ageing Well Committee in the development of targeted policies to address the ageing population and its impact on Bermuda. These policies must be means tested, meaning that breaks that are provided to seniors are provided to those in most need of assistance.”