Older women in rural areas ‘not motivated by money to work’

Older Women In Rural Areas ‘Not Motivated By Money To Work’
A survey found women valued a personal agency, social connectivity, and self-identity that most said they are reluctant to relinquish to retirement. © PA Archive/PA Images
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By Cate McCurry, PA

Women in their mid-40s to 60s living in rural Ireland are not motivated to continue working into older age by money, but instead by their life purpose and for social connection, a study had found.

The qualitative study of 25 women aged 45 to 65 in Connemara, Co Galway, was carried out by NUI Galway academic Dr Alison Herbert to look at the financial reasons to work later in life using constructivist grounded theory.


It found that ‘mid-life’ women, even if in lower paid, precarious work or in poorer health, may choose to continue working into older age for reasons other than financial autonomy.

It said women worked into older age for reasons including structured time, life purpose, personal agency, social connectivity, and a self-identity that most said they are reluctant to relinquish to retirement.



Participants of the study had largely not yet retired from employment and most were not planning to.

It found that ambivalence towards retirement derived from a belief that paid employment can augment not just the manifest benefit of income, but latent benefits that may protect against cognitive decline in older age, enhanced social networks, sustained self-esteem, and positive mental health.

The study shows significant variances to exist in the intersections between work, gender, rural place and age.


Work for older women in rural areas largely offered a sense of life purpose, a feeling of usefulness and desired ‘busyness’, and an alternative identity outside of the home, all of which were highly valued, the findings stated.

Largely, participants did not wish to be unemployed, retired, or to undertake volunteerism.

It found that support measures that make working later in life easier to access may result in “positive social, psychological and economic outcomes”.



Ageism and stereotyping, both perceived and real, proves to be an on-going dilemma in society, including in the workplace and needs to be addressed beyond just legislation, the authors of the report said.

“The impact of age stereotypes and ‘lookism’ on employment opportunities especially disadvantages older women, who are generally judged more unfairly on visual appearance than are older men,” the study by Dr Herbert found.


“As women in developed countries continue to live longer than men they need to be able to access more easily work that relates to their skills-set.

“If such work cannot be secured, older rural women may have to rely on below poverty-line social welfare payments for extended periods. This is neither good for rural economies nor individual wellbeing.

“With rural-sensitive support some may be able to retrain and up-skill in order to exit casual or inflexible work.”

The study said that government policy needs to address the “increasing numbers” of older rural women who want or need to work into later life, while acknowledging their cumulative advantage and disadvantage over the life-course and its impact on the risk of poverty and social exclusion.

“Imaginative gendered rural employment policies could help to release the untapped potential of thousands of women who are out of the workforce or underemployed within it, but could be attracted back under the right conditions,” it added.

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