Geoff is 79. He had to come out of retirement to support his family by mowing lawns

At 79 years old, Geoff Campbell started a new career mowing lawns. Source: SBS News

Article by Madeleine Wedesweiler courtesy of SBS News.

At 79 years old, Geoff Campbell has started mowing lawns “14 days a fortnight” to help support his family amid rising cost-of-living pressures.

The North Queensland resident says he used credit cards to buy a Jim’s Mowing franchise in May 2022, filling a gap in the market for lawn-mowing services between Mackay and Townsville.

Mr Campbell’s story is not unique; the number of retirees returning to the workforce has increased in recent years, partly due to high inflation hitting people’s wallets.

Some 16 per cent of age pensioners have returned to the workforce since retiring and 20 per cent were considering doing so, according to a February 2022 survey by National Seniors Australia.

For this group, 60 per cent said they had started working for financial reasons. The most common answer after that was staying active, at 15 per cent.

Mr Campbell says he has made five attempts to retire after a long career in mining and construction, but decided to go back into the workforce after a series of financial difficulties hit his family.

“We’d sold the family farm and that didn’t turn out too well at all,” he told SBS News.

“We have a daughter and son-in-law over in Perth and they’ve fallen upon hard times and they’re thinking of coming back to live with us … and me trying to be a hero I decided to buy this franchise and get it going and hopefully they might take it over in the future.”

Geoff Campbell says he finds it very rewarding mowing people's lawns and restoring their pride in their homes. Source: Supplied

Mr Campbell says all of his family’s expenses have increased significantly, including food, fuel and power.

But he emphasised that he loves keeping active through rewarding work and said his business, which has recently grown to eight employees, is now booked out several months in advance.

“I had many family arguments about having to mow the lawn when I was a child, but now I really enjoy sitting out there on the ride-on mower under my big hat.”

He says he intends to continue working “as long as I can, while I’m still enjoying it.”

How are older Australians affected by the rising cost of living?

More than 90 per cent of respondents to National Seniors Australia’s February 2022 survey of 5,700 Australians aged 50 and over were concerned about keeping up with the rising cost of living, with one-quarter being extremely concerned.

National Seniors Australia CEO Ian Henschke told SBS News the number of older Australians “severely” impacted by rising living costs is expected to rise over the next 12 months.

“We know that, for around a million Australians, the pension is their sole source of income.

“It’s very difficult to live on, and renting is particularly difficult, and even more so for people who live on their own,” he said.

Mr Henschke said older people in rural and remote areas, those in larger households and people in their 50s who can’t yet access their super, are especially likely to be struggling.

He added that when people on a pension try to return to the workforce after retiring they can be taxed heavily.

“We have a very complicated social security system in Australia, which means that if you do work, you actually get penalised for working if you’re on a pension, beyond a certain amount.”

How much can you earn under the Work Bonus Scheme?

Under the federal government’s Work Bonus scheme, someone on the age pension can earn $11,800, from 1 December 2022 to 31 December 2023, after which the limit will drop down to $7,800.

If someone earns over the work bonus limit, their pension is reduced by 50 cents for every dollar earned over that set amount.

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