How to Support Clients Age 60 Plus
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We all have adventures that fill the chapters of our life story; but what if we are stuck in an outdated paradigm that is programmed to value performance and addicted to achievement?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-being. There’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.
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.
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 Aid, energy 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.