Retirement enthusiast helping improve futures for seniors

IN MANY ways 60-year-old Sally Evan's personal life reflects her public career goals. She is proud of her age, and proves it with the enthusiasm she expresses on gaining her Seniors Card.

At this stage of her life she is thoughtfully examining her own future lifestyle and in doing so, is coming up with ideas that can benefit all seniors.

In particular, this energetic businesswoman has focused her energy in the area of keeping seniors in the workplace and she is taking on this huge issue in the same way she created her impressive resume. Across a 30-year career Sally has worked in the private, government and social enterprise sectors. She has management experience in aged care, health and investment management sectors, inclusive of holding executive positions with Opal Aged Care, BlueCross Aged Care, FTSE Compass Ground and AMP Capital. Sally's work excellence has seen her awarded The Telstra Business Award divisional winner 2002 and gain inclusion in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence (2013 corporate division).

Indeed, Sally is the type of person who sees a problem and finds a solution. In her encore career she has identified obstacles impeding the employment of seniors. Her goal now is to support the seismic shift of consciousness that is needed to terminate ageism and discrimination against the older employee.

To end this ingrained prejudice, Sally has identified issues that must change including decoupling the perceived link between seniority and pay, losing intergenerational stereotypes and seniors being willing to accept diversity in high performing teams.

Sally also wants people to wear their age with pride. "When I hear others say they are not prepared to tell other people what their age for fear of not being given an opportunity or for those biases that seem to exist about people of particular ages; when I heard that, I made the decision that I was going to do the opposite," Sally says. "I was absolutely going to come out and talk about it. If we don't talk about it, then we are just making the problem worse."

She said opening up these barriers will help older Australians to continue to be "economic participants" well past their 60s and even their 70s.

"I want more people to be really proactive in talking about the benefits of what they bring," Sally says.

Sally also encourages employers to get on board with the opportunities these workers present, in various sectors including human resource management and her particular passion, aged care.

"Employers are missing two really important points," Sally says of the broader workplace issues.

"If they don't proactively address this age diversity in the workplace they are going to have enormous workforce constraints in the future which is in their interests to solve because if we don't collectively and individually improve older workforce participation, our overall labour participation rates will fall and that will put pressure on wages and inflation."

She was cautious about last month's Federal Budget announcements around Aged Care initiatives. "We need to increase the workforce and retain people in that workplace," she said. "But, because it can be a physically demanding role there is an expectation that at a certain age a worker will no longer be able to do a job.

"I am particularly interested in how we deal with those physical and mental health issues associated with the job, so we can have really healthy workplaces and older people working in those places.

"If we are really good at doing that for our employees, there's a chance we might be really good at doing that for our residents."

Sally's 'new retirement' is a combination of work, wellbeing and relationships; about making choices. Her retirement choice is working, but in a different way while using her skills and knowledge from her former full-time working life.

She is currently a member of three boards associated with retirement, ageing and dying- non-executive member of Gateway Lifestyle and Oceania Healthcare, and chair of LifeCircle which is a social enterprise group. Sally is also a member of the advisory group for the Benevolent Society's EveryAGE Counts project which is working with partners and supporters to research the attitudes and beliefs that drive ageism in Australia.

Her new work life is giving her the time to focus on what we need to do today to get a better future. "I am really interested in digital technology and what it is being used for, particularly in healthcare and finance so most weeks I will go to one or two sessions, random things, around digital technology disruption, AI, anything. What I love is this random absorption of knowledge that I have the flexibility and time to immerse myself in."

Surrounded by a diverse groups of friends and with her health a key factor in ageing well, Sally retains the energy and enthusiasm to remain fully committed to the road ahead and to discovering new opportunities in the ever-changing workplace and in retirement thinking.

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