According to recent reports, the UK jobs market is booming with more than three million jobs being created in the last 10 years.
Good news in these times of uncertainty. But what stood out to us was most of the new full-time jobs went to people aged 55 and over.
No doubt the age of retirement being raised to 66 played its part, but it got us thinking about those who keep working because they enjoy it, or even use it as their raison d'être.
With this in mind, we focus October’s news review on stories exploring this idea, kicking off with this piece from BBC Business on the existential conundrum of work in an ageing society.
A Nobel Idea
Historically, retirement let us spend our later years enjoying the fruits of our labour, while making way for the next generation.
But as more of us live longer, the article explains, we're finding a sense of purpose through our work, and even identity.
And as the state age of retirement rises, and some people are having to work beyond a finishing line they'd seen for many years, others simply don't want to stop.
One advocate for the latter position is economist and Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps, who (aged 80), believes work is not simply a means to an end but a gift.
Says Edmund; “The world of work is a dynamic place and it's a fantastic place for testing yourself and showing what you can do, achieving and discovering and exploring, all of that goes on in the wonderland of work”.
It would be interesting to see how many bricklayers felt as optimistic about never stopping, but in today’s mobile job market the option to continue, or pivot career should be an option.
Back to Work
There are certainly examples globally of second careers or those returning to work after finding retirement too dull.
According to this article from Australia's ABC News, there has been a near 40% rise in the number of people aged over 65 looking for full-time work.
Through several examples of older adults who successfully kept working, the article shows how their experience has helped their employers save money, pass on knowledge to younger workers and break clichés about ageing by adopting new technologies.
With less than a third of older job seekers finding work however, it's not all good news. And it's businesses who miss out as well as workers, says Professor Carol Kulik from the Centre for Workplace Excellence at the University of South Australia; “Older workers actually are more loyal to organisations than younger workers are, they tend to stay with employers for a long time and they don't take very many sick days”.
Society misses out too, as the “cognitive stimulation is one of the key advantages older people get from staying in the workforce, along with financial stability and social contact", continues Professor Kulik, meaning they stay healthy and happy for longer, requiring less state support.
You'll be lucky to keep doing one job though. With the effect of automation and technology on the job market still largely unknown (to us regular folk at least), staying agile in the job market will be a key differentiator for older workers.
Concludes Professor Kulik; “Instead of thinking about what is the career I'm going to have, think about what's the first career you're going to have and then maybe around age 30, age 35 start thinking about what the next career might be”.
This tension around older workers was explored further by FT journalist Pitilia Clark who believes that in the world of entrepreneurialism , ageism simply makes no sense.
If a venture is more likely to succeed if its founder is older, she asks, then why does more venture capital go to those with younger founders?
Writes Pitilia; “A large US study [IS1] showed last year that, among the fastest-growing new tech companies, the average founder was 45 at the time the outfit was born. Runaway success was nearly twice as likely for a 50-year-old entrepreneur as a 30-year-old”.
It's not just because they're more likely to accept giving away a larger stake in the business, but something more ingrained in our psyche. Young means new and exciting and hopefully a longer-term reward for your investment.
But the reverse is true. Once again, we see that older workers stick around for longer, “outperform younger ones on almost every measure of job performance... are more conscientious, less absent and have more social skills”.
It's these ingrained prejudices we need to change. Because if we don't know what the job market will soon look like, then businesses will need as much experience as they can get their hands on to make sense of it.
Outside the world of work, what else caught our eye?
First up is this inspiring story of the wonderfully named Jeanne Socrates who, aged 77, has become the oldest person to sail around the world non-stop, alone.
Completing her 320-day trip in Canada, Jeanne has overcome numerous setbacks in her sailing career, including falling off her boat in 2017 and “breaking her neck and ribs as she prepared for a previous record attempt”. Fortune favours the brave. Congratulations Jeanne.
Next we look at a slightly more common form of transport, one that's appealing to more and more older adults - electric bikes.
Apparently, according to this article in Considerable, the popularity of e-bikes is “skyrocketing”, leading to increased levels of health and wellbeing with users. Keep an eye out for those trying them for the first time, they're said to return with an “electric grin”. Easy riders 2.0.
Motion is the order of the day over in South Korea too, where local government in Seoul has started prescribing discos for over 65s to combat isolation, poor health and even reliance on medication.
Said one disco-goer; “there's no place like this in the world. I hope this spreads around the world so every older person can be happy and healed”. Rave on.
Surprisingly however, there's not a disco in Pescueza, a small town in Western Spain that has adapted to its ageing population by turning itself into one big “pensioner village”. Not yet anyway.
In this our final piece from the BBC, we learn about the small but numerous changes made across the town to allow its residents, two thirds of which are over 65 to live in their home for as long as possible. Including non-slip roads, daily exercise classes and a meal service, residents are using their pensions to pay for services built around them.
Said one resident of its success; “If I didn't live in this village, I wouldn't live. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else”. Better start brushing up on our Spanish.
That's it for this month, until next time be sure to follow us on Twitter and #StayAgile!