The journey to work as a barrier to continued employment in later life

Various economic, social and demographic factors have combined over recent years to make the promotion of longer productive working lives for older people a desirable policy objective. Although disability increases with age, many older workers lead healthy, active lives. With the UK Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (2006), employers now have to consider requests to continue working beyond retirement age, so the number and needs of older workers are likely to increase. Difficulty with the journey to work is one of the barriers to employment for older workers. Whilst owning a car increases independence and improves quality of life, the compensatory techniques that may be used by older drivers when driving becomes difficult (avoiding bad weather, darkness, rush hours and complex junctions) may not be easily applied to the journey to work. Public transport is not always an option, with journey time, cost and availability all being potential issues. Whilst there are new technologies in both public and private transport that could help, they may not be designed with the requirements and limitations of older workers in mind, restricting their usefulness. In addition, many older people experience conflicts with family commitments and activities. People can find themselves simultaneously caring for their parents, partners and grandchildren. These add to the complexity of journey planning and affect travel choices and decisions. This work describes the results of two focus groups in which older workers and employee representatives explored the key influence travelling to work has on employment. The information, support and technology that would enable older workers to adapt their travel to accommodate changing needs are highlighted, and the relationship between travel decisions and organisational factors is described. This work forms part of the “Working Late” project, a collaborative research project funded under the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme.