Prince Philip – the longest-serving royal consort in British history – has finally stepped down from his duties at the age of 96 following his 22,219th official engagement on behalf of the Crown.

The Duke of Edinburgh capped off his career by appearing before a group of Royal Marines who have taken part in a series of gruelling, extreme-sports events to raise money for their fighting force’s own charity – showing that Philip was eager to be associated with physical endeavour right up until the final entry in his diary.

Naturally, the duration of Philip’s work over several decades has been very much a creature of his patriarchal role – the Royal Family is a continuous tradition and all-consuming lifestyle rather than a corporate setup, and terms of service for senior staff are likely to cover entire lifespans. But Philip’s undeniable achievement shines a light on how older members of society can still pack a punch well past the point when stereotypes dictate they should be downing tools for good.

In America, a joint Harvard and Princeton research paper of March last year found that almost 24% of adults aged between 55 and 74 were working in ‘alternative work arrangements’ – more widely known as the gig economy – compared to 14% of those aged between 25 and 54. Later that year, an article in Fast Company highlighted a 70-year-old New York gentleman who’d decided to take up an internship. How can leaders – and their firms – benefit from retired workers who are not yet ready to hang up their spurs?

The Institute of Leadership & Management's CEO Phil James says: “Another recent US study showed that healthy people who work for longer after retirement actually live longer, too. That chimed with research we did in this field two years ago for our report Untapped Talent, which came up with a host of ideas for organisations – such as having a book of alumni of people who have left, so that their wisdom and organisational knowledge don’t just disappear. The report also suggested that leaders could call on those individuals as special ‘task forces’ for occasions when experience and expertise are required to solve particularly difficult problems. Challenges come around in cycles, and ex-employees who built track records of commitment and tenacity across long terms of service will remember what happened the last time a recurring challenge came up. While no two scenarios are ever exactly alike, that historical perspective could prove vital for determining a solution.”

James adds: “In addition to the health and social cases for continuing to work past retirement age, the financial case is also compelling. If you’re supplementing your pension with additional earnings, not only are you still contributing – but your retirement is more comfortable. And of course, it doesn’t have to be paid work. If your pension is already satisfactory, then you are able to give time to volunteering.

“In terms of how remaining active can put off the more detrimental effects of ageing, the evidence is so compelling that neither individuals, nor organisations, should ignore it. Why get rid of all that wisdom if it’s still present, alert and accessible?”

Find the Institute’s 2015 report Untapped Talent here

Image of Prince Philip courtesy of Art Babych, via Shutterstock