Over 60s are reinventing themselves with postgraduate study and new careers. Instead of moving into old age, today’s sixty-somethings are entering their “renewal age”: a life phase geared towards re-energising, re-educating and for many, taking a new career direction.


Over 60s are reinventing themselves with postgraduate study and new careers.

Instead of moving into old age, today’s sixty-somethings are entering their “renewal age”: a life phase geared towards re-energising, re-educating and for many, taking a new career direction.

While ‘old age’ has recently become a term reserved for those in their 80s and 90s, baby boomers now in their 60s and 70s are healthy, vibrant and ready to take on new work – especially if there is real meaning involved. For many, this exciting phase will involve some level of re-training or up-skilling.

Here we explore the potential value seniors add to the economy, how to tackle re-entry into study and work, and the best employment opportunities in Australia for over 60s.

Seniors add serious value to our economy with potential for more

Recent research in The Australian1 valued the contribution of Australian workers older than 45 at $65.7 billion per year. This figure includes informal care for the elderly and volunteer work that adds $16.3 billion to the economy. However while about a quarter of our population is older, they make up just 16 percent of the workforce.

‘Willing to Work’2 initiative launched in 2015, headed by Age and Disability Commissioner Susan Ryan, aims to help business leaders understand Australia’s changing demographic and give more older Australians a choice to go back to work or continue working.

“Research by Deloitte shows that increasing the older workforce by five percent would bring an extra $48 billion annually to Australia’s GDP,” Commissioner Ryan said at the announcement.

National Seniors Australia Fact Sheets

According to Michael O’Neill, Chief Executive of National Seniors Australia, “It’s time to forget the birth certificate and focus on the resume!” To assist, his organisation has developed a series of fact sheets for seniors. The National Seniors Australia Learning, Education and Training fact sheet is designed to help older Australians in many ways, including how to communicate digitally, update computer and technology skills, gain employment that is less physically demanding, change careers and get a pay increase.

Where and how to study

Where and how to study may not change – especially if the social interaction that comes with studying on campus appeals. However there are options that offer more flexibility, including:

  • Community college
  • TAFE
  • University
  • Open University – also online
  • U3A online – online learning for seniors

The University of the third age (U3A) is a virtual University online run entirely by volunteers to encourage healthy ageing. It offers a wide range of courses that require no prior qualifications. Members join from around the world and the members’ lounge allows them to meet and share their stories and insights.

Seniors can be popular on campus

Quite often, older students can be popular with younger students, as they bring a different set of experiences and knowledge to a group study environment. Mature students can at times absorb stress with more life perspective than younger students and bring a sense of humour and wisdom to the table. Seniors’ intelligence and skills can add real value to younger students, creating a well-rounded classroom atmosphere.

Here’s some handy information from the Australian Government on where to study.

Top 10 online courses in 2014

Open University gives students of all ages access to 12 Universities in Australia via online learning, enabling you to study when you want.

In 2014, the top ten courses at Open Universities Australia included:

  • Bachelor of Education (Primary)
  • Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood)
  • Bachelor of Behavioural Studies (Psychology)
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Business
  • Bachelor of Accounting
  • Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art and Visual Culture)
  • Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Communication
  • Bachelor of Arts (Librarianship and Corporate Information Management)

Source: Open Universities Australia.

Community courses ideal for seniors

Community College is a great way to up-skill while staying local, with low fees. Every area has its own college, usually with courses held on weekdays after hours at a local school. Here are some examples of courses and corresponding jobs that could be ideal for seniors looking for industries and roles where age is no barrier.

The course The job
Technology (multiple) Office administration, reception, coordination roles.
Early Childhood After hours schoolcare, preschools, centres.
Book-keeping and MYOB Basic accounts, working from home or office, freelancing.
Aged Care Caring for the elderly.
Interior Design Property styling for sale, decluttering, interior design consulting.
Photography Family, couples, new babies, weddings, life event photography.
How to hold a successful market stall Sell your food or craft at a local market.
Starting your own small business Whatever your skill, learn how to market yourself and start your own small business.
Horticulture Light gardening, landscape design.

Studying for enjoyment

Community colleges also provide non-degree programs in art, ceramics, jewellery, drawing, and painting. Paired with this, many schools offer non-degree cooking courses, focusing in various cultures, countries, flavours, and styles of cooking. Most recently, physical courses, such as yoga and water aerobics, have become healthy and socially enjoyable options for senior students.

Help with fees

The Australian Government has various ways to help with course fees.3

  • FEE-HELP and VET-FEE HELP from the government pays your course fees and you repay them via the tax system once your salary reaches the minimum repayment threshold.
  • Austudy offers a monetary allowance for you to study through Centrelink.
  • Tax deductions are available for the cost of improving your skills while you are working at the same time.

The Australian Taxation Office website has more information on assistance with fees and guidelines.

How to find work

If you’re skilled and ready to go, you could decide to start your own small business, purchase a franchise, freelance your skills to multiple businesses, or apply for a job. If you’re seeking a job, there are various sites to visit:

Senior job websites

Standard job websites

You could also spread the word that you’re looking for work via former work contacts or on social media job sites. If you’re feeling proactive, you could also visit local businesses in person and offer to help, ensuring you have a CV or flyer on hand to leave behind or place a small ad in the local paper.

The rise of the ‘seniorpreneur’

If you’re older and considering starting your own business, you’re certainly not alone. Almost 35% of new businesses are started by entrepreneurs aged 50 and over4 according to research by Swinburne University of Technology and Queensland University of Technology.

Along with years of experience, the retiree lifestyle lends itself to the time and knowledge-seeking often needed to start a new business. According to the research, the over 50s is the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurship, leading to the development of the term ‘seniorpreneur’.

Some people start their own business as a way to combat age discrimination, while others may simply have a desire for flexibility in their working hours and to be their own boss. For others it’s a financial incentive because they don’t have enough superannuation to see them through retirement. Some aren’t interested in retiring, and feel that working keeps them healthy and engaged with the community.

Bookkeeper and small business owner, Peter Murray, comments: “I was made redundant at 56 and felt that I still had so much more to offer.”

Murray felt weary of the stigma that surrounds seniors becoming employed. Previously in IT at Telstra, Peter had always been good with numbers. He purchased a Jim’s Bookkeeping franchise, which meant he had the flexibility of owning his own business, without the hassle or expense of starting up on his own.

Now 67 years old, Peter has never looked back. During a recent stint in Geelong hospital he arranged for his computers and files to be dropped to him at the hospital so he could continue working. His doctor had never seen anything like it.

If you’re thinking about starting a business, the Australian Government has developed many helpful tools and checklists to assist you get up and running. The best time to start is now.

Important information

 This information has been provided by MLC Investments Limited (MLCI) (ABN 30 002 641 661, AFSL 230705). Information is current as at 11/08/2016 and may change.


1 The Australian, May 2015.

2 Willing to Work, Australian Human Rights Commission, April 2015.

3 Learning, Education and Training Fact Sheet, National Seniors productive Ageing Centre, National Seniors Australia, 2015.

4 SMH, Time to get serious about Seniorpreneurs, Oct 2015.