ST - Axed workers grapple with identity, relationships and non-working life, 31 May

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The Straits Times

May 31 2018

Axed workers grapple with identity, relationships and non-working life

In my experience coaching older workers who have been involuntarily displaced, I have noticed three common themes.

The first is on identity. What we do in our careers and lives is important to our identities and provides a sense of self-worth and assurance of our value to society and our loved ones.

When a job is lost, many people experience a loss of identity, self-esteem and confidence. They have to rebrand a new identity.

Helping them to regain self-confidence is imperative to enable them to continue living a meaningful and purposeful life.

The second theme is about relationships. Overnight, people find that their golf buddies have become unavailable due to other priorities. Some do not return their calls and disappear from their lives.

This feeling of betrayal can cause great emotional stress. A healthy dose of "reality-setting awareness" and being aware of the possibility of changes could make a difference to their sense of self-worth.

The last theme is the issue of life after full-time work. Many of these people go through their working lives assuming they would retire when ready and would, somehow, enjoy their lives thereafter. They want to go for vacations with their spouses, do community work, look after grandchildren and such.

These are great, but how can they sustain these activities, continue to use their minds and bodies, and mitigate the risks of dreaded diseases like dementia? They need a Plan B and a suite of meaningful activities to replace work.

These three themes must be addressed when providing support for older workers (Panel to look into better support for older workers; May 29).

It would be even more useful and meaningful if such relevant support is given before the need arises.

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