30 Oct 2018

Age is a concept not a number

A lot of us are getting older and we are ageing differently. “Advances in medicine and technology are extending the length and quality of our lives. Unfortunately, outdated societal beliefs threaten our ability to enjoy this extraordinary gift..."

“We must overcome ageism and help people successfully prepare for longer, healthier lives.” 

Catherine Collinson - CEO and president of Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies

Age is nothing new. What has changed is our longevity. We have more choices about how we live and work into our 60s and 70s when we are living longer and healthier lives.

Age is a relative concept. Our views on what is ‘old’ are shaped by our age, our culture, our health status, our attitudes and how we live our lives. 

Generational labels like ‘baby boomer’ and ‘millennial’ reinforce stereotypes.

There are individual variations and differences within generational cohorts. The longer we live the more different from each other we become. We have different life experiences, education, relationships and environments which shape our views and our lifestyles.

Critical skill shortages are increasing while the traditional working age population is declining. 

Many over 65s want to stay working – some for meaning and purpose and social interaction and others to pay the bills.

However societal beliefs and ageist attitudes are getting in the way. We need to question our attitudes towards ageing as well as those of family, friends and colleagues.

According to Diane Maxwell, our Retirement Commissioner, ageism and unconscious recruitment bias are alive and well. By the way, ageism is faced by younger workers as well as older workers. 

It’s time to change our thinking about how we work and live over extended lives. 

Working and volunteering across the generational divide can break down prejudices as we reap the benefits of mentoring and reverse mentoring at work and in the community.

Businesses that develop age friendly workplaces, invest in training and value workers of all ages will have a competitive edge by turning these significant demographic shifts into opportunities.  

Adapted from ‘The Drivers of Ageism’ The Benevolent Society – Sept 2017


Mary Somervell

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