Those who retire today are looking at another 20 healthy years with great potential and numerous opportunities. However, old age is fraught with prejudice. The potential of active aging has not yet arrived in people’s minds and in society.

The importance of the demographic change becomes apparent when you consider that the group of 50 to 64 years old employees will increase by 120,000 by 2030. A cohort with extensive know-how, which has helped building up our regional flagship companies is facing retirement. Only about 20 percent of those retiring are planning this step into retirement well ahead. For most of them retirement comes suddenly und unexpectedly.

However, if you are not prepared you can easily fall into a hole. In this new phase of life, when you are still physically fit but no longer have to work, a wide range of new opportunities are waiting for people. However, we need more role models and awareness for this new chapter in one’s life.

To raise awareness for these potentials on a personal, societal and economic level, ACADEMIA SUPERIOR organized a roundTABLE discussion in cooperation with the Network for Human Ressources called “Old Prejudices – New Opportunities”. Three distinguished guests and speakers shared their expertise on how to give meaning to what you do at every stage of your life: Prof. Dr. Leopold Stieger, head of the platform seniors4success, Ing. Dr. Johann Grünberger, former CEO of OÖ Ferngas AG, and Mag. Christian Mayer, labor market expert from Business Upper Austria.

Giving life a meaning at every stage

“The possibilities of the new chapter of one’s life, in which you no longer have to go to work, but nevertheless can still be active, have yet to be discovered by people and society,” Prof. Dr. Leopold Stieger is convinced. Stieger, who has been in the pension for a long time but is not retired, as he says, emphasized his goal: “We must get these 20 years as a time of opportunity into the minds of people” and demanded: “Forget everything you know about  age and create a new picture.” Only when people in the pension are looking for their talents and potential with a fresh mind can they engage in meaningful activities, according to Stieger.

Only when I find an answer to the question ‘Who needs me?’ Will I find a meaningful task for MYSELF. Really asking this question is the responsibility of each person personally. “ – Prof. Dr. Leopold Stieger

Companies could do more

Former CEO of OÖ Ferngas AG, Ing. Johann Grünberger, shared his experiences from two years of retirement. According to him, it is a challenge to find the many ways in which on could do meaningful work in retirement. He recommend courses at WIFI, social engagement, and grandchildren. “It is important that you prepare yourself early enough for the pension and think about what you could do and how to rebuild your social contacts,” said Grünberger. He draws the analogy of flying where a landing approach is not initiated only at the destination.

Life can only be extended forward, not backwards.“ – Ing. Dr. Johann Grünberger

Grünberger also sees as responsibility with the companies that could be doing more for their employees; for example, how to keep people employed longer, how older unemployed people can be reintegrated into the labor market or how to get the know-how of older and retired employees. Grünberger advice to CEOs is this: “Look at your old people. Use their potential and show that you are doing something in this matter.”

We have to rethink the labor market

Mag. Christian Mayer, labor market expert of the Upper Austrian business agency Business Upper Austria, sees the necessity to rethink existing policies and to test new models in a courageous and multifaceted way. The potential of the 50- to 64-year-olds is enormous, since it is precisely this generation that has helped to build up the many top companies in the region. “Now it is important that this know-how is not  lost”, Mayer emphasized and adds: “Currently, the focus in the labor market policy is almost exclusively on the group of young people. But demographically speaking, this group is becoming smaller and smaller, while the group of employed 50 to 64-year-olds will grow by 120,000 in Upper Austria by 2030. It is currently the most interesting group for the labor market.”

The group of 50- to 64-year-olds is the most interesting gropu in terms of labor market policy.“ – Mag. Christian Mayer

The expert critizes that on the one hand there are cutbacks if you retire early but there are no incentives whatsoever for people who want to work longer than required.

Professor Emeritus as Role Model

The active discussion with more than 20 people revolved around the question of how to raise awareness in society for the topic and how to create role models. For example, they asked whether the university model of professor emeritus could also work in other professions: an age-related release from duty while at the same time preserving many rights. Retired people are retained for their institutions and society. Maybe this is an approach that can be applied to other areas.