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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 30-Oct-14 12:23:17

We need to rethink ageing.

Too often, the word "ageing" seems to be synonymous with slowing down - or stopping altogether. Ageing Aficionado, Deborah Gale, argues that completely the opposite is true. We're living longer, and it's time for society to realise that ageing most definitely still means living.

Deborah Gale

Ageing - it means living.

Posted on: Thu 30-Oct-14 12:23:17


Lead photo

Attitudes towards ageing need to change, says Deborah Gale.

There are many lightbulb moments in life but it’s not as if a switch gets thrown one day and you think, "OMG, I'm 50, what now?"

And so, last month in London, interest and passion for ageing came together to get some joined up thinking going. The object of this exercise was to probe the edges of The Age of No Retirement (AONR). Undeniable yet broadly ignored, this age is already upon us.

That the world is getting older and that we are living longer is generally accepted - to a point. That the entire notion and nature of "retirement" is in need of an overhaul, is less generally accepted.

27 provocateurs, 200+ debaters and a sold out invited audience gathered to address this collective blind spot. Distorted reality clearly exists. Retirement remains a highly prized, while strongly incentivised, finale to a lifetime of employment. Meanwhile, how long we’re going to live is gradually increasing, while expectations for retirement have remained constant.

It's clear that unless we can shift attitudes about our ageing selves and bodies, we cannot ascribe value to living over an extended period of time.

This is a prickly disconnect. In the same way that the benefits of conventional retirement have been exaggerated, our understanding of what it means to reach 50 years of age - with the potential to live another 40 - has not been taken on board.

If we expect to accrue benefits from the AONR, ageing needs to be repositioned as synonymous with living. Such thinking challenges every preconceived notion about ageing that we possess.

The debates encouraged no holds barred thinking. How is an ageing work force honestly perceived? How flexible and adaptable can these people be and are the skills acquired over a lifetime actually transferable? What about ageism, degree of digital exclusion and the limits of physical and cognitive functioning? If the answers to all these questions is negative, then how do we turn these into positive outcomes? How do we objectively tap into this fallow, talent pool? Where is it stated that innovation is the exclusive purview of the young?

The fact remains that the only natural resource we have not depleted and is actually increasing is the human capital of our ageing population. We need to tap into these plentiful reserves - but the reserves need to ready themselves for this new period of life. It's clear that unless we can shift attitudes about our ageing selves and bodies, we cannot ascribe value to living over an extended period of time.

If we are serious about making retirement obsolete, public consensus - including ownership of life long learning - will be necessary.

Jonathan Collie of Trading Times and George Lee of Commonland, are preparing an impact report; we await its publication and its actionable outcomes. In the interim, the Age of No Retirement continues its unrelenting advance...

Deborah Gale is an Ageing Aficionado and runs a blog of the same name, committed to eliminating fear of, and shifting attitudes, to ageing.

By Deborah Gale

Twitter: @ageaficionados

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 30-Oct-14 12:34:14


Leave us alone. hmm

rosequartz Thu 30-Oct-14 13:27:07

I certainly didn't think that when I was 50 - I thought I was still young! Silly me!

rosequartz Thu 30-Oct-14 13:30:40

I would just like to add that if someone had tried to objectively tap into this fallow, talent pool when I was 50 they would have got short shrift. I was too busy working full-time, bringing up teenagers and coping long-distance with elderly DP.

annodomini Thu 30-Oct-14 13:33:57

I have tried to find out how old this 'gerontologist' is. She seems very coy about her age as it doesn't appear on any of the web sites I found. Makes me think she's in her 40s or thereabouts, so she doesn't speak from personal experience of ageing. I'm sure we could all fill her in about that, but why bother?

grumppa Thu 30-Oct-14 14:01:21

Based on her CV on LinkedIn she was born in about 1955 (she went up to Mercyhurst Univ. Pa in 1973).

rosequartz Thu 30-Oct-14 14:31:37

Never heard of it. Oh, it's in America!

An Ageing Aficionado:

noun: aficionado; plural noun: aficionados
a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime.
"a crossword aficionado"
connoisseur, expert, authority, specialist, pundit, one of the cognoscenti, cognoscente, devotee, appreciator, fan, fanatic, savant^

Does she mean she is an Aficionado who is getting old, or does she think is an expert on ageing?

Been there, done that etc etc.

I must go and do something more useful.

Ana Thu 30-Oct-14 15:26:48


janeainsworth Thu 30-Oct-14 15:56:30

Haven't we been here before? Wasn't The Age of No Retirement thingy exposed as a sort of recruitment agency?
I'm glad I've retired.
I can at last 'enjoy every minute, it will never come again'.

Ariadne Thu 30-Oct-14 16:16:19

I'm with jingl smile

rosequartz Thu 30-Oct-14 20:03:13

Someone may be interested.


Too busy.



janerowena Thu 30-Oct-14 20:48:21

She lost me at 'making retirement obsolete'. I would prefer us to have a choice, from a certain age, (not sure what that should be, but currently at a maximum of 66) to tie in with mental and physical health and desire to keep on working.

FarNorth Fri 31-Oct-14 08:06:23

I did actually find myself thinking "OMG, I'm 50, it's all downhill from now." but I got over it.

Lots of people are having to shift attitudes about their ageing selves, thanks to the ever-shifting retirement age.

As I wallow in my stagnant pool, or whatever she said, I'm so glad someone is on the way to rescue us.

MySideOfTheMountain Fri 31-Oct-14 12:30:00

"The Age of No Retirement?", "Fuller Working Lives", "Midlife Career Review" and other such initiatives are all about providing people with CHOICE. They are not about being prescriptive, mandating, compulsory directives. People ARE living longer. People ARE living healthier. Pensions ARE diminishing. So people WILL need the opportunities to work longer and to be supported in doing so.

Voluntary and timebanking activities are also included in "work" - they are just unpaid. So it's not just about slaving away, year after year. It's about being able to live the life you want to. Work is an inseparable and very valuable part of life.

I'm soon going to be 50. And I will continue to reinvent myself as I transition through each life stage. I'm excited about the prospects. I've got half of my life still to live.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 31-Oct-14 13:14:29

Good luck with that once you reach your seventies. #creamcrackered

Ana Fri 31-Oct-14 13:48:03

Half's a bit over-optimistic I'd have said - but good luck with your transitioning, MSOTM! thlsmile

FlicketyB Fri 31-Oct-14 22:20:29

What a load of self-indulgent tosh - and so far behind the times

In this country companies noticed ages ago the advantages of employing older people. It started in the retail sector; B&Q employed older people because they were more patient and knew how to do things. A friend of mine, probably now 80 works part time in our local Waitrose.

I am not suggesting that older people do not face discrimination, but most of the questions she raises as novel and needing to be thought about have been not just thought about but discussed in the UK for at least a decade.

As for digital exclusion, that is generally found mainly among the very old. I think McCarthy and Stone, who build all those retirement flats, did a survey of their residents and were amazed just how digital savvy most of their residents and purchasers were, with most having tablets and 3G phones and using a wider range of devices than many younger people.

FarNorth Fri 31-Oct-14 22:29:37

There are several people working where I do, who are near or over the age of 60. All are hard-working, reliable people who are almost never absent from work, unlike many of the younger folk.

MySideOfTheMountain Fri 31-Oct-14 23:54:33

Completely agree with FarNorth. "Several" now needs to be more commonplace. Employers are getting it yet. B&Q, Sainsbury's, Barclays and other early adopter corporates are one thing. It's the millions of SMEs we need to get to appreciate them too.

janeainsworth Sat 01-Nov-14 11:55:51

One job in paid employment for someone in their late sixties or seventies is one job less for someone in their twenties or thirties.

Personally I think efforts should be concentrated on employment for young graduates, or mentoring and training for young people who for whatever reason haven't benefited from mainstream education.

petallus Sat 01-Nov-14 12:16:54

I agree with you janeainsworth

janerowena Sat 01-Nov-14 13:10:18

I think that's what most people think. I worry that my son may not find a job when he leaves uni, I worry that someday soon some young upstart will think DBH is getting on a bit and retire him.

hildajenniJ Sat 01-Nov-14 13:18:16

How many young people in their twenties or thirties would like to get up at 03.00 to go and vacuum, polish and scrub for three hours? If you want a good night's sleep, it means going to bed at 19.00 to get eight hours. No young people applied for my job and the position was still available when I retired from Nursing, so I took it to supplement my pension. I am in my early sixties though.

Galen Sat 01-Nov-14 14:08:54

As I've said before, I'm very cross about the fact that I will be compulsorily retired at age 72.
I know that this is illegal, so who do I work for?
The Ministry of Justice!hmm

ffinnochio Sat 01-Nov-14 14:27:17

Hildaj Impressed.