Archives for posts with tag: business

As we speed towards 2017, which will mean that we are well ensconced in the 21st century, we still face a great deal of uncertainty and still have no concept of ourselves as guardians of this planet. Technology has helped in that people across the world, either close by or on the opposite side, can usually contact each other within seconds, but we still behave as individuals, with little concept of our joint role as preservers of humanity itself. In fact most people still think in terms of their own patch of land, be it the building they live in, the town/city and the country  their lives are clustered around, with minimum global concept beyond those limits.

The problems the world (this planet we have named earth) seems to have has little or no place in our, or our leaders, lives. Our thoughts seem to be focussed around our own little patch, a relic of mankind’s history, with no attempt to look beyond this. I once taught in a private girls school, which was favoured by at least one prime minister for the education of his daughter. One of the staff reckoned the school motto should be ‘Me’ because that seemed to be the students’ focus! That could easily apply to so many people in today’s world, including leaders.

We are all familiar with the industrial revolution and how it changed the lives of so many people. I suspect that this century will be recognised for the knowledge revolution which is likely to change the lives of far more people across the globe, both for better or worse. The latter effect will be entirely our responsibility as holders of this knowledge and responsible for how we use it.

There seems to be an acceptance of democracy as the most acceptable way of ruling, with greater personal freedom not only in choice of lifestyle but in expression of ideas and knowledge. It is not yet an idea anyone has perfected, with most countries having an unacceptable level of poverty and homelessness. Public demonstrations against the ruling party is a healthy part of this, unless they go on for too long (an indication that the people are not being listened to) or if violence is involved suggesting another agenda.

We enter the new year with one major player in world affairs having a leader who constantly  changes his mind and another who faces huge poverty levels (they don’t publish the figures) with an additional 6 million of his people facing job losses in major industries. Meanwhile his government is building weapons structures which threaten major trade routes. Hardly a positive picture.

Meanwhile, on a lesser scale, countries such as Australia have their own struggle with the knowledge boom. The Prime Minister has publicly denounced the advice of the chief scientist on climate change, an essential part of the world’s survival. Neither the Prime Minister, or his senior cabinet, seem to have any expertise in this area. In fields where they do have knowledge it was obtained in the last century and is largely out of date, but unrecognised as such. This is why it is so important to employ qualified advisors and take their advice.

We need to change our approach to governance, and sharing our planet, if we are to survive.

 

The Australian Parliament has just risen for the long summer holiday (not an expression they use!). It tends to lead us to a point where we look backwards and forwards, not only in Australia but in terms of the situation worldwide.

I think that all those who live in a so-called democracy would feel that it is the best form of governance over a large number of people, either individual groups of people from one parcel of land calling itself a nation, or groups of nations together calling themselves another name such as the European Union, with a looser alliance. The latter may or may not be a long-term stable relationship as we are seeing through Brexit. The other alternative is a binding together under a harsher regime such as a dictatorship.

Those of us who live under a loosely termed democracy feel we have the better deal but I suspect that we are being conned to a greater or lesser extent. My impression is that quite a lot of people in Britain feel that Brexit was a wrong decision, even though the population appeared to vote for it. By this I mean people voted according to the information they were given, largely as reported in the press. So did the press have an unrecognised power?

The recent American election also had its faults given that the candidate most voters wanted is not the one they have. This has created a quite disturbing situation given that this new powerful man in the world often makes conflicting statements so no-one really knows what he thinks, or, more importantly, what he will do.

The Australian parliament is nowhere near as important as this but what we see is the damage that can be done in a country which claims to be democratic and is only marginally in conflict with some of its neighbours. Two areas of governance in the last week have particularly troubled me. Any boss who requires their workers to work until midnight day after day would be regarded as a law-breaker since there is a huge danger in making unfair and unreliable laws in that state of tiredness. Not only that, unacceptable deals were done on the basis of ‘I’ll vote for your legislation if you vote for mine’ for legislation they wouldn’t otherwise have voted for. This is not democracy in which elected members are supposed to represent their constituencies and vote according to the latter’s wishes. An even more blatant violation of this is when members are given ‘a conscience vote’ on issues. Their conscience, or beliefs, have nothing to do with what they were elected for. Meanwhile whilst this horse trading is going on, large groups in the population have their needs unmet. Those who don’t fit into the accepted male/female categories, the poor and the needy, in other words the majority of the population, have their needs unmet and live as second class citizens. We call this democracy. I don’t think it is full democracy.

I suspect what we really need in the months ahead is for the citizens of the world to get together and define what real democracy is and insist that our elected leaders follow this new role for themselves. I don’t think it will even happen in my lifetime unfortunately.

For years I have been advocating that older people are a bonus in our society, not merely an expense and finally parts of Australia seem to be waking up to this, albeit from the expense aspect. The recently retired government appointed advisor on ageing advocated that employers be encouraged to retain older people and to do so pointed out their value to society. Unfortunately her research didn’t extend to the fact that people retire because they are bored in their jobs and don’t feel appreciated, a fact which is unlikely to improve the situation.

To really tackle the problem of people retiring at 65, and possibly living for another 40 years with no purpose in their lives, we need to try to offer purposeful alternatives, such as encouraging the rising group of seniorpreneurs. To avoid joining the list of failed businesses these people need professional mentoring, preferably provided by the government. Another fruitful area could be provided by established volunteer organisations listening to the ideas their older volunteers have. It is no use trying to persuade employers that their older workers are valuable employees if the government itself is not providing a good example through projects it supports. I am continuously upset by the fact that the two main organisations who receive huge amounts of government funding in Australia to provide for, and involve, older people don’t themselves employ older people and therefore so often get things wrong about ageing. How insulting for older people. In contrast the organisation which does provide successfully for this age group, U3A, is self funded (it is run by older volunteer members) and is much more successful at the grass roots level.

Professional organisations are not necessarily any better. I would have liked to have stated our case at the World Congress on Public Health to be held in Melbourne next year. Most similar organisations offer a discount for pensioners but in spite of having ‘Life Stages’ as one of their themes, they apparently haven’t heard of, or don’t recognise, the later stage of life and don’t want to hear of it, in spite of having this discrepancy brought to their attention. Most conference attendees are paid for by their employers, including travel and accommodation costs, so affordability is not an issue for them. I hate it when an important organisation such as this suffers from ageism, particularly as the numbers of older people are growing rapidly, a factor they should be aware of. This organisation should be providing leadership in this field, not dragging their heels.

We shouldn’t be complaining about huge national debts, which most countries seem to have, if at the same time we ignore the contribution the most rapidly growing section of the population could make if its talents, experience and knowledge weren’t ignored. I don’t think it is just a question of ignoring us, I think this attitude contributes to ‘the problem’ by making us feel a burden and useless. As we think, so shall we become.

This week, for the second week in a row, I have visited a small country town in Australia. This time it was Dubbo, a small inland town with about 36622 residents and a catchment area of 130000. It is a farming community although currently they are in the midst of a prolonged drought. The drive there makes you aware of why it is currently called a dust bowl- the landscape has a cloud of dust above it.

At one point I was trying to find the local shopping centre and asked directions of a lady who turned out to be a leading light in the town. She was going to the same place and we chatted as we walked there. Before we parted company she gave me an 8 page pamphlet, published by the local people, of all the events in town they were organising. There were about 30 listed, from gardening groups to writers, musicians, a historical society, arts and crafts, theatre, dining, to cooperation with the Sydney Opera House. What a vibrant community.

This made me realise how important local communities are and that this is the major problem with our cities. I am not sure what city planners are concerned with, I can only assume it is with roads and transport and housing siting and other non-human items. This lack of acknowledgement of the human needs of city dwellers is what makes them the disastrous places they usually are, particularly for older people.

My suggestion is that we design cities, and renovate them, in terms of smaller designated areas round a central hub, probably with local shops and some form of meeting place. It would be an area which allowed, and encouraged, all the activities currently Dubbo makes available to its citizens. It would be designed around humans, not merely convenient areas for the provision of water, electricity and other local governance responsibilities. If we put people first we will have much healthier and happier communities.

This is not a dream world idea although it will be difficult to implement initially, simply because it has always been a neglected area of city life and planning. When cities first developed they were created in the interests of the manufacturers who needed a large supply of workers for their factories. Workers were merely commodities. We have now evolved to the stage where workers are recognised as people who will work better and more creatively if they are treated properly. They will also be healthier and happier. We have centuries of catching up to do in our cities.

My final morning in Dubbo was surrounded by a cloud of female motorcyclists (and their partners). They were meeting at the local showground. If they could get 900 of them together it would be a world record. Apparently they held it 2 years ago but the Brits took it off them! What struck me was what a happy group they were, pleased to be together joining up with other bikies from across Australia. Needless to say this good news event didn’t hit the national news. After all, they were regarded merely females and bikies, not young women harmlessly enjoying themselves, passing on their pleasure and enjoyment of life to others.

 

Centuries seem to be a convenient measuring unit for our history with each being accredited with specific human progress. The 19th century was the breeding ground for the industrial revolution, the 20th for two world wars followed by remarkable progress in technology which led to all parts of the world being instantly connected.

Are we now sufficiently civilised and knowledgeable to decide what we would like to achieve in the 21st century (we are now well into it) or will we just randomly move in whatever direction fate takes us? I would argue that since the whole world is connected in terms of easy communication we should be able to move from the selfish ‘I want’ of each country to a worldwide ‘We want’ of the world population. Diseases (pandemics) and climate change are making it very evident that the latter view is the only one that will work. If we accept this argument then can we take human history into our own hands and set goals to try to achieve it? It’s not a new idea, after all that is what the United Nations was set up to achieve, but that was in a different time, with different communications restrictions and different world values, particularly in terms of equality.

Is this early part of the 21st century an appropriate time for the world to decide that the legacy today’s people should leave is one of thinking in terms of a shared earth and setting goals for what we as its inhabitants want to leave for the generations who come after us? Do we want to set the agenda, as far as we can, for the 21st century and our legacy for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.? Given the enormous skills, knowledge and abilities we have inherited from those who have gone before us let’s use them to create a unified, shared planet. Let’s not leave the legacy of the 21st century to chance but rather decide that this is the way to go to benefit the whole world population and plan to achieve that.

Wars, such as those currently in several parts of the world, benefit no-one except a few people’s ego’s and this is usually short lived. The damage to people’s lives lasts for far longer. The current situation where there are millions of displaced people across the world is a sad reflection on our skills as global population managers. We can do better than this. We just need a few people with a genuine passion for a better world for all to unite to push for new goals. In the 21st century we have the knowledge, skills and ability to achieve it. What are we waiting for?

 

I was listening to an interview with an Australian woman who has been fighting for equality for women for decades. It was a reminder that there is still a long way to go before people are judged on their talents, knowledge and ability rather on their gender. At about the same time the Prime Minister had called a meeting of a wide variety of groups to obtain their input into how to create a better, and more prosperous, Australia in future. I didn’t hear of any group representing older people being present and I suspect that there weren’t any. The trouble is that there aren’t any. The two major ones, both of which used to, and maybe still do, accept major grants to keep  afloat, don’t seem to believe in employing older people themselves so they certainly wouldn’t have an appropriate seat in the discussion.

Canada recently announced that it had more people over the age of 65 than under 15. I’m sure it will soon be joined by many other countries. We are so keen to promote ageism, just as for centuries we have promoted sexism, that we don’t look on older people as being a valid part of the economy. In both cases the country misses out on the talents, knowledge and skills, potential or otherwise, of a huge section of the population. I argue that in a highly competitive world we can’t afford to do this.

If we start fulltime work at 20 roughly, allowing for trades and university, and work until we are 65 then we have worked for 45 years of our lives. With the average life expectancy at roughly 85 (it soon will be) then we have another 20 years of life left if we retire at 65. For most of this time we will still be relatively fit. Do we really want to spend these years just filling time, finding things to do or would we prefer to be achieving, doing all the things we always wanted to do and achieve? One piece of research I came across found that people who leave work, retire, as soon as they can are people who feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled in their work. What a sad reflection on employers. One senior public servant told me that this happened in the public service. It certainly did with me but a found several other jobs which were more satisfying!

From the figures available we know that we are under-utilising our workforce based on gender and trying to fix it up but how long must we go on doing the same with problems based on age? I am not saying we should all continue with work, particularly fulltime work. What I am asking for is the opportunity for older people to use all our unused skills and ideas. It will happen in a more free thinking world in the future but what about missing out on them in the meantime. We live in a very competitive world. Can we afford to miss out on blatantly obvious solutions to many of our problems?

I seem to be involved with Age Friendly City projects at a local and international level and feel frustrated that the well-meaning organisers don’t either involve older people in trying to achieve this, or, worse still don’t seem to realise that they should involve us. If they were designing functions or events for disabled people I’m sure that it would be obvious to them that they should involve people with disabilities yet when it comes to older people it doesn’t seem to occur to them to include us in the plans or arrangements. To me this is an obvious case of elder abuse as well as being less than efficient.

I wrote to a conference organiser associated with one international organisation complaining about the fact that those who come after us will be horrified at conferences on ageing not involving older people. I got a very rude response beginning ‘Dear Mr Guy’ in spite of the fact that I had made my identity very clear!

My own stand is that making cities age friendly is neither practical nor cost effective except that such plans are usually also beneficial for people with small children and the disabled. Then it embraces a very large section of the community and is therefore beneficial to a lot of people. When my own city applied to become an age friendly city one of the first things it was going to do was to install appropriate seating in shopping centres etc. Several years later we still haven’t got them. I visited three centres just before Christmas last year and was struck by how unhappy all the shoppers looked. Not only would installing appropriate seating make shopping a much more pleasant event for the groups listed above but when other shoppers see these people happier and more relaxed then shopping becomes a much more pleasant event for them too. Wouldn’t happy shoppers promote shopping which is what these centres should be all about? In a highly competitive retail environment those responsible for managing them should be aware of issues such as this but their training strangely does not seem to include the elements of age friendly cities.

I hope that those who come after us will realise that some of us have been trying to fight for elder inclusiveness. It’s just that we feel as though we are up against an impregnable brick wall and we don’t know how to shift it.

I guess as we get older we have seen so many New Years we get quite blasé about them, feeling that no matter how hard the world tries little will apparently change. It is changing of course but I am not sure it is through our choice.
Every year we add enormously to our knowledge source and one area in which we are committing huge resources is in the ‘big bang’ field, trying to find out how the world/universe started and perhaps why we are here. This I guess is a huge and expensive topic but it seems to have a single focus which I suspect is why we do focus on it. The rest of our problems are complex and hard to define so they tend to get ignored. Trying to make the current world, and its inhabitants, a better place is much too complex for us to think about addressing. Or is it just that we are too selfish to try, knowing that if we did provide every inhabitant with the vital necessities in life, such as shelter, clothing, food and fresh water, we would each have to lower our own standard of life, some more than others? We have created a strange world in which we admire those who are unselfish and share with others yet few have any wish to do the same. Worse still we tend to also admire the rich, the collectors of material wealth, and try to emulate them.
This particularly applies to many politicians who can’t see the very real danger of an ever widening gap between the rich and poor. To me the gap between what the lowest 10% of the population have and what the highest 10% have should be the real measure of a country’s wealth and prosperity. The ridiculous argument that if you tax the highest earners too highly they will stop working is just nonsensical. The rich are rich because they are addicted to money and wealth and having a bit more will always appeal to them.
Maybe our joint and individual resolution this year should be to stop at nothing to make the world a better place, particularly for those who currently have insufficient for their essential needs. Maybe a joint effort might actually work. Then we would have a New Year worth celebrating.

As a protest marcher from way back (being older I rarely participate these days!) I couldn’t help looking at the recent climate change marches objectively. The good thing about such events is at least it wakens others to the realisation that there is a problem that they should think about. I’m sure that most of the world is currently aware of the problems the residents of Hong Kong are undergoing. If China was more conscious of, and cared about, world public opinion it would be more effective than it apparently is at present. Thanks to modern communication no country can entirely silence its people these days. The effectiveness of protests internally depends on whether a country cares about how the rest of the world sees it.
Back to the climate change marches. The problem with this topic is that it is a very complex one with many other issues tied in with it. If we care about the climate shouldn’t we also care about the way we treat the planet we live on, not just the atmosphere around it? It really worries me that we are using the limited resources the world has without even a second thought. When I grew up after the second world war everything was scarce so we had to recycle everything we could. This involved repairing, not just discarding.
I was reminded of this recently when a male relative asked me if I would darn his socks. Even I was a bit rusty with this process! It led me to contemplate how little we recycle anything but fundamentals these days. We just accept, for example, that electrical goods aren’t built to past standards and have a limited life after which they are discarded. Yet so many of the limited resources used in them are ever really considered. We add to the problem by wanting the newest of every gadget and just discarding the old one.
As I watched the climate change marchers I wondered if preserving the world’s finite resources was ever a consideration to them.
All this occurred about the time my electricity account arrived. The solar panels on my roof insured that I had a credit even though it applied to the coldest part of the year.
People who march do a good job but it would be even better if they thought through the whole issue. Climate change is only part of the threat to the planet we live on.

I’m currently living at home and intend to stay that way but I’m becoming increasingly aware that others need more care than can be given in the home, even with the Home Care service the federal government provides.

It always worries me that a physical home in a retirement village may be provided by someone who is merely paid to do so and has no incentive to try to provide the best and the most appropriate. These thoughts arose because the ACT has announced the provision of housing for older people who want to ‘downsize’, in other words move out of a big family home into something more suitable for 1 or 2 older people (a single  or a couple). The only people involved who were mentioned were the government and the company developing the land, no mention of any other people, particularly older people, being asked for their opinion. This may just be a failure to mention such involvement. I hope so.

It reminded me of a speaker at a conference I went to who was speaking on behalf of a development company building apartments for older people in Sydney. When she had finished I asked if they had consulted older people as to what they would have desired in such a building. ‘Good heavens no’ she yelled at me from the platform and then quoted the huge amount of money it was costing. I felt like yelling back ‘If it’s costing that much all the more reason for consulting them’! They could easily have been left either with unsellable apartments on their hands or people who had bought them merely because there was no alternative on the market and had to put up with any undesirable features.

Last week I went over to look at one of the Warrigal Care sites where they are building new independent living units. They already have facilities for other types of care established on the site and I was shown round. I was even shown the laundry and kitchens and was impressed with the obvious enjoyment people in all areas of the facility have in their work. This type of work enjoyment many of us older people remember used to be the norm. Today such consideration seems to have been replaced by how much they pay rather than any job satisfaction.

One of the reasons I admire the Warrigal Care group is that they treat older people as people, not just clients or whatever the current term is. When I asked if people already living in their independent living units on other sites had had input into the design of the new units the answer was a simple ‘of course’. Many of us are aware that when it comes to providing for us in any form we aren’t usually consulted. Dare I mention ‘Centrelink’!

Yet another issue we have to deal with.

Audrey