Archives for posts with tag: older people’s talents

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?

To me the worst part about getting older is the uncertainty. The ultimate is not knowing how much longer we have left on this earth- it could be anything from 1 to 20 years (it may be even longer but I assume that beyond then I will be a very different me, particularly physically).
Last week I got the flu. I had had the vaccine months previously but apparently when they were deciding which strains to include this year they missed one which led to a flu epidemic some weeks ago (goodness knows why I’ve waited until now!). Normally the vaccine works for me and I haven’t had flu for decades. In those days I was much younger and fitter so I could just write a week off then take up where I left off. Today ageing makes things very different. I still don’t know when I can tick it off and move on and be back to normal.
One of my elderly friends has been frustrated by the restrictions of pneumonia recovery for weeks.
Apart from these interludes providing a temporary but longer than before setback we still have to allow for the fact that prolonged setbacks could occur at any stage, including the ultimate setback of the end of it all. It makes life planning very difficult. Should I try to get everything done now as though I haven’t long or can I work my way leisurely through what I want to achieve and assume I have enough time, and the capacity, to get everything done? Maybe as this will give me a much more enjoyable life I should stick to it and hope that if I don’t finish what I want to do others will take over and complete it. Some of the things I want and aim for, such as an older person representing us at the United Nations and older people running conferences on ageing are unlikely to occur for a quite a while (decades) anyway. For the latter what I want would mean we older people would be a majority on the organising committees, we would provide the majority of speakers and the majority of the audience at conferences on ageing. I can’t see any of that being achieved in my lifetime. Those involved in research into ageing are unlikely to admit that without us older people their knowledge of ageing is limited. I’ve just finished reading some recent research into the volunteering areas in which retirees put their time and effort. The book involved a large number of researchers across several European countries and would have involved a lot of expense leading to this result. Oops! What they should have said was that these were the areas of volunteering currently available for older retirees. I am arguing that the talents, expertise and knowledge of older people should be harnessed to allow for the creativity older people could bring to the community if given the opportunity. This would open up new areas for volunteering. This is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow societies are currently missing out on.
I wonder to what extent my somewhat morbid thoughts are inspired by the fact that I bet on the horse that died in the recent Melbourne Cup? He was very, very valuable and I assume that no expense would have been spared on his health needs yet he still managed to have a heart attack doing what he had been specifically trained to do. I don’t stand a chance compared with him!!!