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Older doctors and retirement

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Planning for life after work should commence as early as possible

Many older doctors work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65 and have no clear retirement plans, as discussed by Wijeratne and colleagues in this issue of the MJA.1 Yet it is also known that older doctors are at higher risk of poor performance.2 The move towards revalidation, as being considered by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA), should be regarded as complementary to retirement planning, in that both involve components that need to start early in the doctor’s career. Successful retirement usually requires the doctor to have interests outside medicine, financial security, and good health, each of which should be developed during a long career. The trend to later retirement was noted 15 years ago.3 Since then, there has been a further ageing of the medical workforce, and around 1700 employed doctors in Australia are 75 or older, particularly in general practice, psychiatry, ophthalmology and general medicine.4 This delay in retirement is consistent with baby boomer trends in the general population.5

A recent systematic review of retirement planning by doctors found that continuing financial obligations delayed retirement, while strategies to mitigate career dissatisfaction,…