6931 - Reinventing Retirement

It’s been estimated that up to 15 per cent of people aged 70-74 remain in the workforce. Their reasons for working vary, from a need for income to the sense of purpose that work can bring. Many older workers try new jobs or reshape their past professions. Today we meet an architect who decided that age 70 was a good time to start a new business focused on community benefit.

Six months of retirement was enough for Rob Caulfield.

After a career as a partner in a successful Victorian architectural practice, he sold his share of the business, thinking that travel and time with family would be good. But like many over 70, Rob and his former business partner, Ivo Krivanek, found that retirement couldn’t provide the benefits that work had offered. So they formed a new architectural and interior design practice.

‘When you start a business at our age you focus on the things you missed in previous careers,’ Rob says.

‘We choose projects that are meaningful for us. We work normal hours and ensure we have time for our families and social activities.

‘I keep reminding our team, many of whom are young and new to the industry, that our practice is unusual, but in a good way,’ he says.

His team are designing accommodation to cater for people with special needs, including autism. They pay attention to robust construction, ease of access and remote control of key facilities.

‘These are not projects we do to make money. We are using our professional skills to innovate and provide accommodation of a standard not previously available to NDIS clients,’ Rob says.

‘It is quality design with a social purpose.’

While retirement was not for him, Rob is busy addressing the needs of people living in retirement villages. His practice is now updating retirement villages built in the 1970s.

‘There is a growing need for larger, three-bedroom units within villages. Also, apartment blocks adjacent to community centres with far more amenities than in the past,’ Rob says.

‘We are asked to design facilities with cafes, mini-supermarkets, theatres, gyms and hairdressers. A bar is often mandatory!

‘When you’re my age, you know what is required for a contemporary retirement village. It’s an example of the value of the professional skills and life experience of a working 70 year-old,’ Rob says.

Those skills and experience are also being put to good use in Rob’s role as a Councillor for the Australian Institute of Architects and a Board member of COTA Victoria.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the official ‘working age’ ends at 65. But with an ageing and healthier population, there is now a larger pool of older people wanting to work beyond 65. As Rob Caulfield and his colleagues have shown, work after 65 can be a ‘time to shine’, with both personal and community benefits.

Article originally published 14 August 2021 COTA VICTORIA