When Ken turned 50, he took a redundancy, and for 12 months.

When he applied for the redundancy, he was told, “you’re mad, you’re 50, no one will employ you, you’ll never end up in a senior role again”.

But then he spent 12 months doing absolutely nothing other than growing vegetables in the backyard, reading, and spending absolute leisure time and letting my body and mind reset itself.

One day a work colleague rang him and said “I believe you are trying to emulate “The Good Life” from the ABC series”.

And Ken replied, “no, I’m enjoying life”.

That work colleague gave him an offer he didn’t expect – “how about coming and working in New South Wales?”

And Ken took that opportunity because “I was fresh again”.

He had a renewed vigour to go and take a career change.

“And I loved my five years in New South Wales, and it was great to then go back home and then continue the journey ultimately to where I am now.”

Many of you may know “Ken”, who is in fact the Federal Minister of Aged Care – The Honorable Ken Wyatt AM, MP. And the idea of taking a “senior gap year” is a concept he touched upon at the National Press Club in Canberra last week.

“I personally believe we should consider a “seniors gap year”, made available for employees, in the lead up to the traditional retirement age.”

“This is something I am keen to explore with my Ministerial colleagues as it is outside of government policy.”

“Like teenagers have done for decades, as they plan their studies and career paths, this “gap year” could allow older people to map out their future, while maintaining job security.”

“Right now, people like me, who may finish full time work in their 60s can expect to live for at least 20 years, post-retirement.”  

“The question is what will we do for the next few decades? How will we continue to contribute and how will our knowledge and skills be harnessed for the benefit of society and the economy?”

“The number of us aged 65 and over is projected to more than double during the next 40 years, but we’re still failing to prepare well for living to 100 years of age. “

On average, people are retiring between 61 and 62, and research by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission suggests that 27 per cent of us aged 55 and over aren’t saving and preparing for the future.

Approximately half of all older people have a financial plan for the next five years, only a third have a plan for the next 10 years.

“This is why we ought to have a serious conversation on the idea for a gap year before retiring. It should be part of our new thinking because let’s face it, if it’s good enough for the young folk as they embark on life’s adventure then it’s good enough for senior Australians.”

Minister Wyatt has even looked to his local area to help advance this initiative, “I already have a couple of companies that are looking at working with a gap year model and they are employing older people.”

“I’ve got three or four businesses in my own electorate that are employing men over 60, and they are finding that their contribution in teaching younger people within their industry and in their businesses has been extremely invaluable.”

Minister Wyatt also explained that allowing older people a “senior gap year” would not only benefit the older person, but organisations and the workforce overall.

“I would encourage anybody to seriously think about it, because if you want to keep the talent that you have in your organisation, then don’t let it go to waste, because you have people with a cumulative corporate knowledge.”

“I see people who are given redundancies, and then 12 months later, that same department is hiring them back to fill in a void that they created in letting them go.”

The Minister urges that Australians “need to change our mindset” and to “think about the incredible living books and living knowledge that sits within every Australian over the age of 60”.

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