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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

(45 comments )

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

Nelliemoser Sat 01-Nov-14 14:32:06

Ageing??? She is talking about 50 yr olds!

Hildajeni I think you have a point about some younger people and their work ethic.

There is lovely checkout assistant in my local ASDA who is probably 82 now. I went in one day and his till was decorated for his 80th birthday, he looks way younger than that.

He has just the right personality for the job and cheers me up on my usual Friday morning supermarket run.
As long as he is fit and can do the job he should keep going.

I doubt if many younger assistants would have his style and good manners.

janerowena Sat 01-Nov-14 16:57:16

My DS supports himself through uni as a reservist, so he knows all about hard work and lack of sleep. Being the ones who get called out to floods for sandbagging duties etc. Most of his friends are working part or full time as well as studying. When we took him back last month, the house was empty, they were all at work. Many of them can't go home during the holidays, most have to work over Christmas.

kittylester Sat 01-Nov-14 17:23:02

I just think they need to rethink aging not us!

rosequartz Sat 01-Nov-14 17:55:16

I agree with janea. Many (not all, I know) older people have had the chance to work and build up pensions and savings and many younger people are desperately looking for work.

It seems ridiculous to me that the pension age is becoming later and later and yet we will be paying out benefits to young people who are unable to get a job. Where's the sense in that?

Perhaps the older ones who are so helpful and cheerful working in service industries could be kept on to train youngsters some of whom (not all I emphasise again!) can be surly, unhelpful and resentful at having to serve customers.

FarNorth Sat 01-Nov-14 18:50:32

When old-age pensions were introduced, the qualifying ages (65 & 60) were deliberately set at just a few years before the average life expectancies for men & women.
Now that life expectancies are longer, the pensionable age is being made later, meaning most older people need to have employment.

In any case, the state pension is hardly a fortune so many older people wish to work in order to have a reasonable standard of living.

There shouldn't be a need to look at the situation as either / or, young / old. It should be possible to find a solution for everyone but it probably needs a bit more imagination than that possessed by the current government.

Ana Sat 01-Nov-14 19:08:16

'It seems ridiculous to me that the pension age is becoming later and later and yet we will be paying out benefits to young people who are unable to get a job. Where's the sense in that?'

In fact it's quite canny, rosequartz! The basic state pension is far greater than JSA so it's cheaper to have more unemployed youngsters.

No flies on that George Osborne...wink

janeainsworth Sat 01-Nov-14 19:18:58

But Ana the State pension will be paid to those eligible whether they're working or not, so it will cost the state more if older people are employed at the expense of younger ones who are in receipt of JSA.
Also, once you have reached state pension age, you no longer have to pay NI, so the state loses out, although it will still take income tax.

pompa Sat 01-Nov-14 19:20:51

I've not followed this thread, but I have one comment.

It's OK for those in some jobs to work on into older age, but what about those that do manual jobs, anyone fancy laying carpets at 70 ?.

Ana Sat 01-Nov-14 20:05:13

jane, rosequartz referred to the state pension age being paid later and later in recent years - which is the point I was replying to.

My post didn't apply to pensioners who carry on working for whatever reason.

agile75 Sun 02-Nov-14 00:02:21

I started work at the age of 13, six days a week.
Retired when I was 69 with 3 pensions that I paid for,packed up smoking and cut my drinking back drastically.I dont want to work anymore, I enjoy getting up when I want to and my only obligation is to take my old dog for a walk twice daily and to keep taking the tablets.

perhaps I should have had a plan or consulted an oficionado'

happy days.

durhamjen Sun 02-Nov-14 11:15:16

The fire brigade is on strike at the moment because the government wants them to carry on working until they are 60 instead of 55 at the moment.

I cannot imagine being rescued by someone who is only five years younger than me.

janerowena Sun 02-Nov-14 20:33:02

I do know some very fit 55 year old men. But one of those only last night was saying that he needed to get to the gym, as he was starting to slow down and get aches and pains. So now, after you saying that, although he looks every inch the part of a firefighter, I think I would be worried that I might put someone's back out if I saw a hint of a grey hair!

FarNorth Mon 03-Nov-14 10:41:48

Don't firefighters have to have regular checks, so if their health is starting to fail it will be picked up?

FlicketyB Mon 03-Nov-14 21:50:35

The labour market is not static with a fixed number of jobs, it is constantly growing. There is room both for new comers to the labour market and for older people who do not wish to leave it. The old and young do not work in the same sectors of the market.

Ana Mon 03-Nov-14 21:58:07

They certainly do in supermarkets, and chain stores generally.

Leticia Mon 03-Nov-14 22:05:43

50yrs is no age! I had a child at primary school- I was not unusual.
It was in the paper today about the sandwich generation and the fact that if you are working much longer you simply are not available to look after elderly parents. The country would also grind to a halt if it wasn't for volunteers- and most of those volunteers are retired.

Leticia Mon 03-Nov-14 22:08:10

Retirement isn't the end and slowing down- lots of people are much busier- they are just free to pick and choose and not have the straight jacket of paid employment.

Leticia Mon 03-Nov-14 22:09:15

If you are defined by your job then you are going to be in trouble, but your job is only a small part of who you are.

FarNorth Tue 04-Nov-14 00:52:39

The real problem is that pensions, whether from the state or elsewhere, can't afford to keep paying out for more & more people who live a long time after retirement.

Leticia Tue 04-Nov-14 07:13:37

If we are going to have to work longer then there will have to be a huge change- at the moment someone if 56yrs doesn't stand much chance of even getting an interview.

FarNorth Wed 05-Nov-14 10:13:19

"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."

from the OP - someone is on the case!

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