Redefining Retirement Age

Redefining Retirement Age

Agora #90

The traditional notion of ending one's working life at a fixed age is being challenged by shifting demographics, changing economic realities, and evolving social attitudes.

The Evolving Concept of Retirement and Its Impact on Individuals and Society. Policies and Practices Linked to Retirement Age and Their Implications


Retirement, once considered a well-deserved rest after a lifetime of work, is undergoing significant transformation in today’s rapidly evolving world. The traditional notion of ending one’s working life at a fixed age is being challenged by shifting demographics, changing economic realities, and evolving social attitudes.

Demographic Changes and Economic Realities

One of the key drivers behind redefining retirement age is demographic change. People are living longer and healthier lives and this longevity has significant implications for retirement planning.

For example, in 1990 life expectancy after the age of 65 was 16.3 years in Germany, 17.2 years in Italy, and 17.5 years in Spain; in 2020, it had increased to 19.7 years in Germany (+3.4), 20.1 years in Italy (+2.9) and 20.5 years in Spain (+3,0). With such an increase in life expectancy, the idea of retiring at 60 or 65 no longer aligns with the reality of a potential post-career life that can be active and productive for decades.

Moreover, economic realities play a crucial role in redefining the concept of retirement. Many people find themselves financially unprepared to retire at a predetermined age due to inadequate savings, insufficient pensions, or the need to continue working to support themselves and their families. As a result, individuals are reevaluating their retirement plans, seeking flexible options that allow them to remain engaged in the workforce or pursue alternative income-generating activities.


Impact on Individuals

The evolving concept of retirement offers challenges and opportunities for both individuals and society. On one hand, delaying retirement can allow individuals to improve their financial security, bridge the gap between savings and expenses, and enjoy a more fulfilling post-career life focused on purpose. Working longer can also contribute to better mental and physical well-being by providing a sense of purpose, social interaction, and continuous intellectual stimulation.

However, redefining retirement age also raises concerns for some individuals. Physically demanding jobs may become unsustainable with age, and individuals facing health issues may have difficulty continuing to work. Additionally, some individuals may wish to retire early to pursue personal interests, spend time with family, or engage in activities they couldn’t explore during their working years.

In the international public sector context, many aspire to retire, return to their home country, and enjoy the later stages of life within a more familiar cultural context. Balancing the desire for early retirement with financial security and societal expectations becomes a complex decision for many.

Implications for Society

Redefining the retirement age has significant implications for society as a whole. The traditional retirement model based on a fixed age often leads to a sudden loss of valuable skills, knowledge, and experiences in the workforce. By encouraging people to work beyond a certain age, society can tap into the vast potential of older individuals and benefit from their expertise, wisdom, and mentoring. Redefining the retirement age also challenges preconceived notions about ageing and productivity. It promotes intergenerational collaboration, fostering the exchange of ideas, skills, and perspectives between older and younger generations. This interaction of different age groups in the workforce not only enhances innovation and productivity but also fosters a more inclusive and age-diverse society.

Governments, employers, and policymakers are reevaluating retirement policies and practices to address the changing retirement landscape. Many countries have already increased the official retirement age or implemented flexible retirement options, allowing people to gradually transition out of the workforce or reduce working hours while still earning income. Employers are also adapting to the evolving retirement concept by offering phased retirement programs, skill development opportunities, and mentoring initiatives. These practices benefit older employees and contribute to talent retention, knowledge transfer, and workforce diversity.

However, challenges remain. Age discrimination in the workplace and limited access to training and employment opportunities for older individuals can hinder the effective implementation of redefined retirement policies. Addressing these issues requires comprehensive legislation, effective enforcement, and a cultural shift that values the contributions and potential of people of all ages.


The concept of retirement is undergoing a profound transformation in response to demographic changes, economic realities, and shifting social expectations. Redefining retirement age offers individuals opportunities for increased productivity, financial security, and personal fulfillment. At the same time, it presents challenges and calls for adjustments to retirement policies and practices. Embracing this paradigm shift, societies can unlock the potential of older individuals, promote age diversity, and foster a more inclusive and productive future for all.



Carlo Scano is a member of Executive Committee and the treasury of Union Syndicale Bruxelles