Heterogenous Older Workers: Older Women "Opting Out" in New Directions


  • Barbara Myers AUT University




Studies on older workers suggest that organisations expect to employ older workers in increasing numbers. To date, research focuses on strategy and policy thus contributing to the perception of the older worker as collectively an "issue.” Recent research confirms the persistence of some negative stereotyping of the older worker and suggests that increased employment levels for older workers may reflect employer expediency rather than a change in employer attitude.

Anecdotal observations suggest that many older workers faced with expectations to continue paid work into their sixties and seventies, are seeking alternative life paths outside the labour market. Fragmentary commentary suggests that some older women are choosing to undertake an OE or ‘self-initiated foreign experience' (SFE), a period of autonomous travel and work in another country.

While there is a nascent career literature on these foreign experiences that suggests that career development is a substantial outcome arising from what appears to be a serendipitous, youthful and carefree endeavour, there has been limited research on the careers of individual older women workers undertaking a SFE.

By reviewing the extant literature on older workers and careers, this paper develops a conceptual framework to better understand the motivations, experiences and outcomes for these older women who exit the labour market and undertake a ‘foreign experience’ as a catalyst for renewal in life and career development.


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Author Biography

Barbara Myers, AUT University

Faculty of Business