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Coping with job loss when you’re over 50

“Coping with job loss is tough for anyone, but especially for mature workers,” says Victoria University researcher Joanne Brown. Joanne is looking at how people aged 50-65 cope with job loss for her Ph.D. in Psychology.

Joanne says mature workers often find it harder to regain employment than younger people.

“Mature people face a number of barriers in the workforce. There’s a definite age bias. Many employers are worried that mature workers won’t be as quick and up-to-date as younger people and will cost more to employ.”

Employers frequently say mature workers are “over-qualified”, according to survey respondents. Joanne says “they ignore the fact that often the person just wants a job.”

Joanne says employers need to recognise that mature workers bring a number of benefits.

“They have a wealth of experience and knowledge - not just about a particular field of work, but about living in the world. This practical knowledge allows them to identify problems and pitfalls more easily. They are also likely to be more reliable than younger workers.”

Joanne’s research indicates that job status or level of education has little to do with somebody’s chance of experiencing job loss over 50. “Respondents to date have ranged from cleaners to doctors,” she says. “They all have similar concerns and difficulties.”

Joanne says her research will help people who experience job loss in the future. “It will help identify what strategies, tools and tactics people find most effective in dealing with job loss. Counsellors will be able to give better advice to people on how to handle their situation.”

Joanne is interested in talking to anyone who has experienced job loss over 50, and who is currently between the ages of 50 and 65. “Your current job status doesn’t matter,” she explains. “You can be working again, studying, doing volunteer work, or unemployed.”

The research involves a postal survey and an optional face-to-face interview. Participants in the postal survey have a one in twenty chance to win $50 and those prepared to do the face-to-face interview have a chance to win another $50.

People who would like to take part in the research should contact Joanne on 04 476 2855, email her at or write to her c/- the School of Psychology, Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington.

Joanne’s research is part of the Positive Aging Taskforce at Victoria University. Joanne, a mature student who has a Ph.D. scholarship from Victoria, is also working with staff from the renowned Max Planck Institute of Aging in Berlin.

Victoria University Wellington

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