Alan Williams, 62, has taken up a management role in Vietnam after a fruitless job search in Australia.
Alan Williams, 62, has taken up a management role in Vietnam after a fruitless job search in Australia. The Benevolent Society

Senior jobseeker willing to travel ... to Vietnam

LIVING on the Newstart allowance for the next five years held no appeal for Alan Williams, of Wollongong NSW. He wanted a proper job.

At 62, he set out to find a position with decent pay that would suit his management experience and build up his savings for retirement. He didn't expect to have to go overseas to work after a job search in Australia proved fruitless.

"I've worked for myself most of my life. I was looking for the more senior roles, general management," Alan said.

"I'd been looking for two-and-a-half months.

"I went through about 1000 applications and broke it down to the ones where I had the best chance.

"I applied for 22 jobs the first month and got down to two interviews.

"I was a one-in-four chance in the first job. The other job it was me or the other person and the other person got it."

Alan had taken steps to prepare for fulltime work over the past nine years while acting as carer for his wife, by completing a university course on governance.

"I need mentally to get back in the workforce - I'm healthy and I'm strong," he said.

Finally, he has secured a position in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as the CEO of a dental implant centre for foreign tourists - overseeing a 100-strong workforce.

Alan is "ecstatic" to have a job, although he would have preferred to stay in Australia where his wife is receiving care for dementia.

"Initially the plans are for 12 months in Vietnam. I've got three trips lined up to come back," he said.

"In Vietnam, they haven't lost that respect for people with age.

"They still respect that older people have a wealth of knowledge and will pass it on to younger people."

As a result of recent research, The Benevolent Society plans to run a campaign next year addressing the social and policy impacts of ageism.

To be called EveryAGE Counts, the campaign will be designed to drive new conversations and a national agenda for older Australians - including a federal minister for older Australians.

The society's executive director strategic engagement, research and advocacy, Dr Kirsty Nowlan, says our society needs a radical rethink of attitudes towards getting older because we perceive older people as frail, less involved in life, confused and non-productive.

Alan says interviewing panels for jobs should include an older person "to bring perspective".

Broadcaster Jane Caro says older people find difficulty getting a job and are usually the first workers to be retrenched when a company is struggling.

"There is a negative assumption about getting older," she said.

"It's a great thing to get older ... an achievement.

"You have a kind of confidence that you don't have when you're young."

Tackling ageism

Our fears about ageing prevent us from ageing well, but those fears are based on falsehoods. This was the major finding from research by Australia's first charity, The Benevolent Society.

The national online survey of more than 1400 people across all age groups asked respondents to describe how Australia would be different if ageism was tackled. They said Australia would have:

  • Greater empathy and compassion.
  • More knowledge transferred through the generations.
  • More tolerance, respect and acceptance.
  • Happier, stronger and more connected communities.

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