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Since 1 October 2011, it is illegal for an employer to force someone to retire, signalling an end to the Default Retirement Age, following a campaign by Age UK.

So are our businesses swamped with people working past the state pension age? Well, as of January 2012, according to government figures, there are more than 885,000 people aged 65 and above still working either full-time or part-time – a not insignificant number and one that is likely to rise in the coming years.

Helen Gent speaks to three people still working past the state pension age to find out a little more about their experiences.

Mario: 'I decided retirement wasn't for me'

Mario Rebellato

Mario Rebellato (above), 70, from London, is a personal assistant to the managing director at a London plumbing firm

I sent a tongue-in-cheek letter to the company. I read an article about them employing 97-year-old Buster Martin [at 100, Buster became famous as Britain's oldest worker] and wrote to say if they ever needed an understudy for him I'd love to work there. A week later I was called in for an interview.

I'm not a 6ft blonde with long legs. When Charlie, the managing director, told me I could be his personal assistant I thought he must have a problem with his eyes. But he hired me anyway. I deal with phone calls, emails and stationery buying. I also procure staff uniforms – I spent most of my working life doing admin and budget control at Austin Reed so Charlie thought I'd be good at that.

Retirement was never an option. My previous job was working in John Prescott's office in the housing finance department. When I had to leave at 65, I spent two months at home doing nothing and I just couldn't reconcile myself to not doing anything constructive. I decided retirement wasn't for me.

I'm not being employed out of sympathy. Age is irrelevant. As long as I can do my job properly, it's not an issue.

Do I enjoy working with younger people? Funnily enough, I've never been conscious that I work with different age groups. I suppose it's because we all respect each other and my colleagues never make me feel my age.

There's a sense of fulfillment. When I get home after a day's work I feel very fulfilled, and when I get to Friday I'm already looking forward to starting again on Monday. Of course the financial renumeration is nice too – although the kids and grandchildren make sure the money doesn't stay in the bank too long!

I'm hyperactive. By nature, I have to be on the move all the time. I can't have too many hours in the day when I'm not doing anything. I don't see any reason to stop working.

 

Janice: 'I'm learning new things all the time'

Janice McGrellis

Janice McGrellis (above), 66, from Brighton, is a legal secretary for a local firm of solicitors.

I've had a varied career. I've been executive assistant to the managing director of a hotel group and I ran my own restaurant before becoming a legal secretary. Some employers see your age and make an instant judgement, but when I applied for this job 3 years ago age simply wasn't an issue. It's experience and how you do your job that counts.

I'm the oldie in the office. My colleagues don't see me as an older person, though.There are 12 of us and we all pull together as a team. It's a very friendly environment and we all socialise together.

I'm a bit of an agony aunt. Some of my younger colleagues come to me for advice about boyfriends and marriage. I suppose it's because I've experienced things that they haven't. It works both ways though. They keep me updated on all the new bands. And we all love X-Factor.

Money was the main reason for continuing to work. But I love how working keeps me more alert and active. I'm the fire officer, health and safety officer and office first aider, so I'm learning new things all the time.

I don't want to sit at home and vegetate. You've got to keep going. My husband, Ernie, is nearly 80 and he still works as a taxi driver. I don't think it's in our genes to give up.

I like having a purpose in life. By working you actually contribute to what's happening in life and at the end of the week I feel a sense of satisfaction. I don't know how long I'll continue full time but I wouldn't give up work completely. Work keeps me going. I don't feel like I'm disappearing off the planet.

 

Bill: 'I still want to keep my brain active'

Bill ThomsonBill Thomson (right), 66, from Larkhall, has a seasonal job at the Motherwell branch of Wilkinson

Who'd have thought I'd be selling women's perfume? 18 months ago I was made redundant from my job as business development manager for a large company.

My daughter, who works for Wilkinson, suggested I apply for a job there over Christmas. The next thing I knew I was working on the perfume and aftershave counter. I loved it so much, I was there again this last Christmas.

Nobody's ever questioned my age. If you've got the right outlook and talk to customers in the right way they realise you're not just some silly old man there to fill a space.

Working in the retail trade is a complete change for me. But I was given basic training for shop floor work and just took it from there. And this year I was put in charge of training my co-worker, Gemma, who's 21.

I'm comfortable around younger people. I used to coach youngsters at my local swimming club and my children are in their 30s, so I have quite a young outlook. Gemma and I have completely different lives, but we can still appreciate each other's experiences.

With age comes experience and patience. I've learnt that, as long as you know what you're doing, you can do the job just as well without rushing.

It's great to get out of the house. I love meeting new people at work and having a chat. In the staff canteen there's lots of banter and you get to hear about different things. Through talking to younger people in the workplace, for the first time ever I've changed to a cheaper gas supplier.

The last thing you want is to become a couch potato. I spent 35 years in a job that required a lot of travelling, so now I like to spend more time at home, but I still want to keep my brain active. So long as I've got my health, I don't think I'll ever retire properly.

Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081