How we age is in revolution. Decreasingly an issue to fear or ignore, and more a fact of life we can embrace and even thrive in. Ian Spero’s recent article on the changing attitude of marketers toward older consumers celebrated this fact by placing a spotlight on those leading the way. Visionary companies realising the conceit of ‘anti-ageing’ is on its way out.
Substantiated by the insightful stories we found this month, this opportunity for change is being addressed across many sectors. This great article by Viktor Weber for the World Economic Forum for example, explores the impact emerging technologies are set to have on the very way we live.
In it, Weber reveals how our increasing longevity will impact healthcare and housing, and how technologies like 3D printing will allow us to build homes that are stronger and more environmentally sound. He also suggests repurposing office blocks when automation radically changes work as we know it, and that some people may begin to actively choose living their life offline.
It’s thought provoking stuff. In Weber’s own words; “It is vital to foster more holistic thinking, connecting the dots between technological, environmental, ethical, legal, political and societal changes - not just within the built environment, but any aspect of life. This is the only way we as a society can build a common vision for your future”.
AAA couldn’t agree more. Bringing people together to address the challenges we face, while realising the opportunities is what we do. Time however, isn’t on our side - the impact of an ageing population is already being felt across the job market, highlighted recently in this article from The Actuary magazine.
Working it out
The article led with the statistic that "the number of workers aged over 50 in the UK economy grew by 230,000 between the first quarter of 2016 and the first three months of this year". And the same period saw the number of 35-49 year-olds decreasing by 48,000, while 143,000 UK-born employees stopped working - either through retirement or emigration.
Our ageing society (and limits on migration) they argue, is “likely to cause a workforce crisis for businesses that are not prepared for the transition", meaning that "companies employing older workers need to create working environments that can capitalise on that, but also equip them with new skills to ensure profitability”.
According to Julia Howes, a workforce planning specialist from Mercer (who carried out the research); “It’s difficult to see how the industry will weather this storm unless it retains its UK workforce, maintains access to non-UK labour forces, automates, and ceases provision of some services”.
Whatever the solution at scale, there are high-profile individuals arguing that ending the enforced retirement of experienced individuals, particularly women, must be part of the solution. Not just to keep the workforce diverse and primed, but to help those living into their 90s or beyond remain fully engaged with life.
Mum knows best
Sally Koslow illustrated this argument in her recent call to arms in the New York Times. Inspired by her aunt's lucidity and lust for life at 100, this personal piece argued that in a world that cherishes youth, the options for women to stay sharp by continuing to work are limited.
When the choice for early retirement was made for her, Koslow’s answer was to join the gig economy. Granted this isn’t a choice everyone has, but it shows that just because industry makes a decision for you, it doesn’t mean you’re done.
Koslow says female managers should do their bit by considering hiring women their mother’s age. As she wrote; “Today’s 30- and 40-somethings can’t ‘lean in’ forever. If they don’t address embedded ageism, they’ll blink, pass 50, and possibly see their success evaporate faster than a boss can say, ‘Sorry, we’re going in another direction.’ A younger direction”.
Once again however, we can’t wait too long as this younger direction is getting younger by the day. Our last two stories prove just that.
Since she was 11, the prodigiously talented Laura Deming has been interested in ageing. And now aged 23 the venture capitalist has just closed her second fund - focused on aging - with $22 million. According to Deming, “aging has become a place to play”.
And showing youth isn’t always wasted on the young, this article from Generation Change introduced us to their project bringing young children and older people in care homes together to rediscover the joy of personal contact. As they say; “Bringing the generations together is not only a positive thing to do – it could become increasingly necessary over the coming decade.
As more people join the revolution and find new opportunities in our ageing society, we’ll be sure to share their story on Twitter.
Until next month, be agile!
Agile Ageing Alliance: Connecting digital and social innovators in an ageing society
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Image used with permission: Copyright