WILLING TO WORK: STEPS Group managing director Carmel Crouch.
WILLING TO WORK: STEPS Group managing director Carmel Crouch.

Willing to work: Carmel Crouch finds work at 71 rewarding

WHEN Carmel Crouch retired at 55, she only retired from one job so that she could continue to use her skills and network in another job she could be passionate about.

At 71 Ms Crouch is managing director of STEPS Group Australia, a national not-for-profit organisation providing education, employment solutions, social and community connections for disadvantaged people.

Just after she sold her last business and then decided to retire, the previous STEPS managing director stepped down and the organisation, which she has been associated with for close to 30 years, needed a new person in the role.

"I said yes to coming in for six months to fill the role,” Ms Crouch said.

Five years later she is still there.

Under her guidance and with her extensive commercial skills, Ms Crouch has led the STEPS team towards developing a "business with a mission rather than a community service organisation”.

"The world of community organisations has changed and we have to be very business-like, we need to be sustainable, otherwise we won't be here,” she said.

"My experience in running medium to large businesses is proving invaluable.

"I am still having a great deal of fun.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2015 reports, "In the five years since June 2010, the number of people aged 65 years and over in Australia increased by 582,300 (19%) to reach 3.57 million people at June 2015.

"This accounted for 15% of the total Australian population.”

These numbers are expected to grow over the next decade and with it is expected to be an increase in the number of these people remaining in work, particularly baby boomers.

University of the Sunshine Coast's Dr Prue Millear recently said, "People can keep working; why do we have to stop?”.

"You either need to work for yourself or work in a place that is not afraid of older people.

"That can be hard as the stereotypes of age, old fogies and tech-obsessed young people, can get in the way.”

WILLING TO WORK: Carmel Crouch with STEPS staff, clients, and supporters of STEPS Pathways College at last year's Christmas party.
WILLING TO WORK: Carmel Crouch with STEPS staff, clients, and supporters of STEPS Pathways College at last year's Christmas party.

Working through to her 70s and surrounded by a younger, enthusiastic staff, Ms Crouch hasn't let stereotypes affect her work.

She has embraced change, becoming part of the technological age with dinging electronic devices providing background sounds to her everyday work life.

"I am adaptable and I knew if I was going to continue working that I needed to stay current with what was going on in technology,” Ms Crouch said.

"We just need not to be afraid of technology.”

Ms Crouch admits she is really is retired but the self-confessed workaholic is working about 100 hours a week.

"I'm not working probably any differently to what I have.

"We were born in an era where work ethic was pretty much everything.

"If I retired, I would stay on the board as that would give me a continuing interest.” 

Her STEPS job includes overseeing a 24-hour-a-day community organisation for highly disabled people and for which she is ultimately responsible in a crisis.

This schedule leaves her little time to rest. The weekends are when she tries to take time out to rest and remember that at 71 she probably does need more rest time than when she was working hard in her younger years.

"I say to my exec team and to my board, the minute you see I am no longer effective, if I don't see it first, the deal is you tell me that's the case,” Ms Crouch.

"I like to think that if I am going to keep working into my 70s, it has be worthwhile.”

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