How to Support Clients Age 60 Plus

Support clients 60+ in pursuing their bright future

Why is the most common question we ask our clients over a certain age, “How much longer do you want to keep working?” Is that really a positive way to support clients aged 60 plus? When framed this way, the question infers an ending, when the client may simply be looking for a transition. They could be looking for new ways to define their self-worth into their 60s and beyond.

When someone asks me how much longer I want to keep working, I panic as I realize that, after over 40 years of working in a service-oriented role, my “career” is how I identify my sense of purpose. I still have so much more to give, but what is it that I now have to offer? What if I am just standing in the shadow of my former self, looking for me?

Our mature clients often experience this reaction when their focus has been on “doing” instead of “being.” As career professionals, our role is to help them feel confident in their self-worth. We could be asking them questions such as, “How do you want to show up in the world? Who do you want to be? What makes you happy? How can I help you to BE?

Acknowledge a Lifetime of Achievement

I am an over-achiever. I do come by it naturally, having an ADHD brain supported by a keen sense of adventure. Perhaps there was also a little FOMO (fear of missing out) mixed in as I wanted to do it all. Opportunity would knock and I would already have my bag packed ready to go. 

I started playing guitar and basketball before I was 12. Then, after moving to Canada, I had the opportunity to travel with school and eventually spent over 30 years working in the travel industry. I played in a band, jumped out of an airplane, earned a black belt in martial arts, became a yoga and mindfulness instructor, and reiki master. I kept learning and growing and helping others as I went along.

I raised two wonderful children and volunteered in my community. I ran a half marathon, dragon boated with my work mates, and hiked the Inca Trail with my family. I have been on the go for so long that I don’t know how to stop, nor do I want to. 

We all have adventures that fill the chapters of our life story; but what if we are stuck in an outdated paradigm that is programmed to value performance and addicted to achievement?

According to Positive Psychology, ”The self-worth theory posits that an individual’s main priority in life is to find self-acceptance and that self-acceptance is often found through achievement.” 

Conduct a Reality Check

In his 2019 article “Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think,” Arthur Brooks is quoted as saying “the memory of remarkable ability, if that is the source of one’s self-worth, might, for some, provide an invidious contrast to a later, less remarkable life.”

I personally am grateful that life provided me opportunities to explore, experience, and expand my awareness of the world around me. Lessons learned and accumulated knowledge is my contribution to a collective consciousness. 

Brooks calls this “crystallized intelligence” or “the ability to use knowledge gained in the past.” He further says that “we live the most fulfilling life — especially once we reach midlife — by pursuing the virtues that are most meaningful to us. Accepting the natural cadence of our abilities sets up the possibility of transcendence, because it allows the shifting of attention to higher spiritual and life priorities.”

We all want to belong; to feel that our life has meaning. We may not want to stop, but accepting that we will be different in the world can be quite a  challenge. Our task becomes that of redefining our strengths and what we value. Reward and recognition must come from within; from a sense of living to one’s truth and purpose in the world. 

Age does not define us — it matures us. Just as we savour the nectar of a ripened fruit, a coach can help us to harvest the fruits of our labours.

Embrace a Shift in Perspective

Throughout my career my focus has been on providing outstanding customer service; I felt good when my clients were happy. What happens when past reward systems no longer get recognition? How does this now define me as a person?

One of the biggest challenges in what is considered “career decline” can be when our work no longer meshes with the sense of self-worth our duties and responsibilities gave us.”

One of the consequences of using an old lens can be a perceived feeling of being “not good enough” when trying to keep up with old patterns of what we feel we should be doing. 

“Believing that we are nothing more than a job is detrimental to our well-beingThere’s nothing wrong with being proud of what you do, finding joy or fulfillment in it, or letting it shape who you are; the danger is in letting it define your entire sense of self.”

A coach can support clients age 60 plus to understand that they are not the shadow of their former selves, but the reflection of their inner brilliance, still waiting to shine. They can help clients to mine their inner diamonds by chipping away at what no longer serves them and revealing the essence of their true nature. 

Reset and Realign

What some may call a mid-life crisis can be an opportunity to reset and realign our sense of purpose. When working with clients through this type of career transition, career practitioners should consider tools and methodologies that address the self now simply “being,” while releasing the former self’s identification with “doing.” A compassionate, supportive approach can nurture a client’s self-worth and future direction as we help their inner radiance shine outward.

Brooks states, “As we grow older, we shouldn’t acquire more, but rather strip things away to find our true selves — and thus, peace.” 

As career professionals, we help our clients each day in truly getting to know themselves and their values as they meet their unique life transitions. We can do this with our mature clients by supporting the release of old patterns and identities that keep them stuck in their inner critic and helping them tune into their inner coach. 

What has worked for me is to take the time to stop the constant chatter of the outside world and, through meditation, listen to the guidance of my soul. I AM good enough. We spend a lifetime learning and growing for the purpose of sharing our lessons and mine have been about self-care and how to be well in the world. I express this through my life, my actions, and my work.

Redefine Retirement

Whether for reasons of financial obligations or personal fulfillment, 2018 statistics indicated that “the last 20 years have witnessed a near doubling of the labour force participation rate for those aged 60 years and over.” Reframing perspectives to accept this fact is not only critical for employers and career professionals, but also for the general public, including our clients.

Ageism is now recognized by the World Health Organization and defined as “the stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination towards others or oneself based on age.” But many of our clients do not buy into the dictionary definition of retirement as being the “withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.” They are not ready to withdraw but to move forward with dignity and grace.

We can support clients age 60 plus as they reinvent how they want to show up in the world. We can help to reinforce the value of their continued exploration and contribution as they step into the legacy of their unique self-expression. 

Next Steps

Work can be described as a “physical or mental effort in order to produce or accomplish something,” but isn’t this what we do naturally every day? Rather than ask our 60 plus clients how much longer they want to keep working, we could offer strategies that help them redefine and reimagine their self-worth regardless of what they decide to DO. 

What are some of the success stories you have had when you’ve provided support to clients age 60 plus? What are some of the strategies you use? If you were — or currently are — in this situation personally, what question, or questions, would you want to reflect upon?

Carol Brochu combines a 30+ year career in HR, operations, and client service with a unique personal and spiritual development journey that has included studies in Mental Health First Aidenergy work, and self-care disciplines. She is a certified yoga and martial arts instructor, mindfulness facilitator, Me First practitioner, CPC member, and Certified Work-Life Strategist.

Photo by Jamie Brown on Unsplash

Spread the love
Categories: , ,
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Great article Carol!

Thanks Sylvie….I have to admit that I am guilty of asking this question before turning 60 myself and realizing that I still have too much energy to slow down. I learned an important lesson from this reflection and that is that we all have our story to share and we really need to take the time to get to know it for ourselves and for others.

Thank you for writing this inspiring article, it really validates some of the ideas and feelings I am currently experiencing around a career transition at 60 years old.

Thanks Laurie – What also works are tools such as journalling and mindfulness, creating space to hear the chatter. When our answers are in our body rather than in our head then tools such as craniosacral therapy and focusing can help us identify any areas in our body that are blocking us from seeing, hearing or being ourselves fully. Sometimes sharing ideas and feelings around our own transition can help others as we learn more about ourselves. It would be great to keep these conversations going.

This is such an insightful article! I read it twice to fully integrate it’s toughtful words of guidance. This article really helps understanding the specific issues and needs of people going through this transition in life. Not the end of anything, but rather a redefined view of oneself, an acknowledgment of this diamond or light still burning bright inside of us and which is ready to lead us in whatever experience we choose to invest ourself in next.

Thanks Catherine, when it really comes down to it we help all of our clients to connect with their values and strengths. When starting their career path younger clients may respond with how they think they feel. Someone who has been in the workforce a number of years can now respond from the experience of the feeling and have a better handle of what has worked in the past, what no longer works and what they still want more of. This light is our joy, happiness, peace, love, gratitude and heartfelt sense of who we are. This is felt and radiated from the inside out.

Great article, hits home to Me who is a 60+ wanting a career transition but surrounded by friends and family that are retired always asking the question when are you going to retire?? Do I need a exit date? I sure don’t want one. Proper direction is needed and would be very useful. Thank you for this .

Thanks Carla, I recently found out that Dr Ruth Westheimer who is now 93 gives the same advice for others as she gives herself: “Not to retire, but to rewire. To keep busy.” There has not been a so called “exit date” for some time now and from what I see Dr Ruth is still active in the media into her 90’s. It’s different for everyone but it may take us looking inside asking ourselves “What do I want?”

Thank you for the reference for Dr. Ruth Westheimer. I will definitely do some reading about her ideas on rewiring.

I feel the same as you Carla. At 60, without major family obligations and in good health, I feel like this is a great time to embark on a career shift but of course understanding the realities of ageism and the obstacles they will present. I feel energized to keep learning and working adding to my accomplishments to give my life more meaning in a different helping profession.

I enjoyed your article, Carol. I’ve been struggling with this for a while myself as I am in the 60+ world now. As the oldest and lowest paid staff member in the program I’m currently part of, I have a hard time avoiding these questions – even those I ask myself. People seem to look at me differently now. It’s almost as if they have a question they’re not asking. And a great many of my colleagues are retiring early – at 55 or even younger. It creates an uncomfortable peer pressure and makes me feel worse about myself because I didn’t have the opportunities and earning potential they were blessed with. It’s easy to start feeling left out even with a healthy self image. It almost feels like being back in high school dealing with being excluded for not being as cool, or attractive, or wealthy, or smart. It’s an unfortunate reality and your points about dignity and self-worth are on point. This is a time of transition no matter how you slice it so to approach clients 60+ as being in career transition is the way to go. It may require redefining what career is as well in light of different stages of life. One of the most significant things I have embraced is that I am now the teacher, mentor, or guide. People listen to you when you’re 60 like never before. And the wealth of knowledge and skills developed over so many years can be leveraged much easier into just about anything I want. If I can dodge the self pity this could very well be the most exciting time of my career.

I love that you have embraced the fact now the teacher, mentor and guide. This is most certainly going to be the most exciting time of your career!

This resonates so much for me.

You bring up so many good points Michael. Thank you for sharing. You mentioned having a hard time “avoiding the questions we ask ourselves” yet at the same time we get caught up in the stories we tell ourselves. I love your new story about being the most exciting times of our career. I also feel drawn to the teacher, mentor, guide and am not yet sure how that is going to show up. Have you ever had that feeling that there was something inside waiting to come out, some part of you that wants to be expressed? If so what would that look like for you, what would that feel like?

Last edited 2 years ago by Carol Brochu

Cathy, not only is your current post filled with great information and resources, your original article speaks directly to the challenges faced by a “third age” job seeker with the parting message of being true to yourself. I love the recent link to “Retiring Retirement” where the author shares “We believe it’s time to re-identify the “Lifestage Formerly Known as Retirement to mean something far bigger and worthy of a new name”. Thank you for getting the ball rolling on these conversations. I would love to here some success stories when working with “third age” job seekers. What have your strategies been?

Carol, this is a superb article with so many important learning opportunities!

As the founder of CPC, my challenge is that I’ve always done the “work”. As I get closer to 60, I’m delegating more tasks to the many leaders and volunteers within the association. I’ve started to learn that I don’t need to “do” what I’ve always been doing. I have given myself permission to impart the skills I have acquired over the years to many other career professionals.

As I read your article, I realized that my new role is to build the collective knowledge within our association.

As always, I’m your number one fan!

Thank you Sharon, this truly means a lot to me as your “work” has been an inspiration to me over the years. My heartfelt gratitude for building this collective knowledge not just by imparting your skills and aquired wisdom but in supporting others to do so as well. Thank you for making a difference in the world.

I recently read and discussed Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande with my book club, which isn’t specifically about retirement, but focuses on helping people figure out what they want to do with the time they have left.
By combining your thoughts with Gawande’s, I’m more aware than ever that no matter how many years I have left on this earth, I need to do what is right for me, and not worry about what society expects. If I can continue to help people by doing work that I love, who says I need to pack it in?

Wow Janet, the title of this book gave me goosebumps. “What matters in the End” and helping people to figure out what they want to do with the time they have left. I think it took a pandemic to wake us up and teach us that it is ok to get off the hamster wheel and “not worry about what society expects”. For me, it was the 1999 movie The Matrix that first had me questionning the concept of “free will”. I think it may have something to do with giving ourselves permission to get out of our heads and into our hearts. As you have so eloquently put it “If we can do work that we love, what reason would we have to pack it in?”

This is very informative and filled with many nuggets Carol. It will take a mindset change, but everyone of us (practitioners, employers, recruiters), have to be a part of the conversation around ageism. The article spelled it out quite well.

I can envision you speaking on the topic at Cannexus, or contributing the article to Next Avenue, a website geared to people 50+. Here’s a link to one of their articles: ‘The Big Quit’: What It Means for Older Workers | Next Avenue

And, by the way, I was on a webinar this afternoon and a woman asked this question:

“Do you believe a woman of 76 can make this worthwhile?”

I immediately switched to the article tab and shared the link in the webinar.

Coincidence or what?

Thanks for sharing this article Daisy, so many more great nuggets of information. I especially like the reference in this article to “There’s this sort of subtle tension where older adults are expected to step aside and get out of the way.” For years we have been buying into this mindset. The woman of 76 that you spoke about instinctively knows her value but perhaps she still needs it validated externally.

Wayne Dyer told us to “Don’t die with your music still in you”. We are all born with a song in our hearts which gets heard each time we are being true to ourselves. Yet we get caught up in roles like parent, teacher, employee, employer and what we understand or are told is the expectation of that role rather than who we are. Perhaps post pandemic employers will also start to recognize the importance of self-expression and support the unique strengths and differences of their “human” resources. Employees may not need to “quit” a workplace that will see “you” and allow flexibility in how “you” show up. A “purposeful path” doesn’t always mean a change of direction but perhaps a shift in insight and action. Who are you “be”ing?

Take some time to read some of the articles suggested in Daisy’s link and keep the conversation going. Be well and BOK2BU

I think I need to read this more carefully. After 2 short scans, the POV appears to be about older workers finding something new vs. staying in their current job or field. That might be true for some however definitely not all. I retired 1 month before my 70 birthday not because I was done with work but because I thought it was time to travel while my health & particularly that of my spouse was fairly good. I was wrong however that’s another story. In short, this seems to be about the prevailing belief that older workers need to move on and how that can be accomplished. Not what I was expecting

Thank you for your comments Victoria and for sharing your story. I would love to hear more from your perspective as my motivation for writing was to have these types of conversation and to talk about novel approaches, support and points of view.

I was getting tired of people asking me when I want to stop working. I was asked again last week and shared that for someone with ADHD retirement is not a word in my vocabulary. I have too much that I still want to do and to share.

As my target audience was career practitioners I made the assumption that our client in this case, may be looking for change, perhaps they no longer being supported, or they still had something they wanted to experience or something was missing.

I originally called the piece “standing in the shadow of my former self, looking for me” because I was no longer getting the intrinsic satisfaction that rewarded my brain. I knew I wanted to keep working, to keep contributing but at what cost. I was starting to doubt myself and my contributions. Until I realized that I was relying on the outside world for validation.

Rather than supporting a client to “move on” perhaps we can help them to “move in”. To find ways to reconnect with their sense of self worth and purpose. To stand tall in how they want to BE in the world regardless of what they chose to DO.

If my current workplace only sees me as someone who will retire soon then they may no longer be invested in me. Perhaps I need to keep moving forward with grace and dignity into my next adventure. One that fulfills both my heart and soul. For me that is to keep growing, learning and giving. Life, however, does not always give us a choice and I’ve often felt pre-judged based on age. 

This is why I ask you all how can we help our 60plus clients “show up” without “giving up”?

Thanks to everyone so far that has contributed to this conversation.

Last edited 2 years ago by Carol Brochu