Tonight: For how long can we carry on working?

73-year-old Irene Budd says she's better off at work than at home. Credit: ITV Tonight

With the state pension age set to increase to 66 by 2020, presenter Fiona Foster asks, will we all have to carry on working longer than we imagined?

The latest episode of ITV1’s Tonight programme examines the growing band of people over 65 still going strong in Carry On Working at 7.30pm.

There are currently more than three-quarters of a million people aged over 65 in employment, 23,000 are over 80.

And it is getting easier for us to stay in work. Recent government policy has scrapped the Default Retirement Age, a law which gave employers the right to sack employees when they turned 65. That’s fortunate because for some, that additional money is essential.

Janice McGrellis, 66, a full time legal secretary and her husband Ernie, 80, a taxi driver who works five day a week, feel that living on the state pension alone would be too difficult.

“When you see what the state pension is, if you don’t have a pension to supplement that, then you are really living on the bread line.”

But for a workforce of 30 million, pension saving has fallen to a ten year low with only about half of employees saving into any kind of pension.

Niki Cleal says that if people don't start saving for retirement now, they may well have to work long into the future. Credit: ITV Tonight

According to Niki Cleal, Director of the Pensions Policy Institute,

“People really either need to start saving in a pension now or they are going to face a pretty stark choice of either being very poor in retirement or having to work very long into the future and well past their state pension age.”

Working well past the state retirement age is something that 73 year old Irene Budd does at The Christie where she is a nurse.

73-year-old Irene Budd says she's better off at work than at home. Credit: ITV Tonight

“I actually love the job, I just love being with patients, trying to make life a little bit better. It’s just the sense of doing good, I suppose, with my life. Cos, you know, I’m quite healthy, feels a bit of a waste if I was just sitting at home.”

National treasure Bill Roache, Coronation Street’s longest running cast member, agrees. Bill still works full time at 80.

“Everybody is living so much longer and so much healthier and so much more active, that a 65 year old now is what 30 years old was years ago.”

At Newcastle University, the Institute for Ageing and Health studies the changing nature of ageing.

Professor Thomas Kirkwood challenges traditional thinking when it comes to age.

Professor Thomas Kirkwood thinks it's "completely absurd" to set a universal retirement age. Credit: ITV Tonight

“The idea that when you reach a particular magic number, 65, 67, 68…suddenly all the skills, the mental capital, the experience, your emotional resources, suddenly they’re worth nothing - it’s completely absurd,” he says.

But it was a situation Leslie Seldon faced when his employment ended at age 65. He was asked to retire but he didn’t want to go. Leslie took his case to court on the grounds of age discrimination. In April, the Supreme Court ruled against him. It is feared that this could have implications for the new rights obtained by the over 65 to continue working.

Leslie explains, “The fear is that this judgement may be applied in the circumstances where a firm wants to get older workers out and other workers in and may be used as a precedent.”

But whatever happens, the challenge facing all of us is how best to harness that wisdom and experience, avert our looming pension crisis, and find a way to ensure we all enjoy a happy, healthy and financially secure old age.