One of the main reasons for this has been the abolition of the default retirement age of 65 in 2011. There were various reasons as to why this was necessary including the fact that people are living longer, the failure by many people to save adequately for their retirement and the value of the state pensions in comparison with the rising cost of living.
In most cases, the retirement age is now when an employee chooses to retire. If an employee chooses to continue to work in their older years then, in terms of the Equality Act, an employer cannot retire an employee compulsorily unless the retirement can be justified as a "proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim". This is a hard test to meet in these circumstances.
But what about the over 65s who are not currently working and want to get back into work? It is well known that people approaching retirement age or over retirement age find it harder to obtain employment. In response to this, Paul Green, Saga's Director of Communications said "we need to stop writing older workers off simply because they have found themselves out of work at an older age, and start making the most of the invaluable skills and experience many have to offer".
A common argument to employees working on beyond what used to be the retirement age is that young unemployment rates are directly affected by too many older workers refusing to retire. As I have mentioned in previous blogs on this topic, this argument is flawed. Similar arguments were made after the Second World War when the number of female workers started to rise significantly, with it being said that men would have fewer jobs because of the influx of female workers. However, the reality is that if more people work there is greater spending power, which, in turn, creates more jobs.
It will be very interesting to see to what extent the number of over 65s continues to rise over the coming years. I have just googled "worlds oldest worker" and there are a number of employees mentioned who are aged over 90 and even over 100. I would hope to retire before then but you never know!
As ever, the best advice to employers is to treat all employees (or prospective employees) equally, irrespective of age and not to make any assumptions regarding someone's ability to do a job based on their age.