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Harnessing the power of an ageing workforce.

The UK’s population is set to increase by a whopping 3 million within the next 10 years, but it is an ageing one. That presents its own problems, but also presents opportunities.

Understanding this dynamic, particularly with regard to the labour active contingent, could provide untapped potential for employers. Ever searching for innovative ways to attract new talent, employers could stand to gain a wealth of experience and longevity from older generations. With great efforts to entice and engage Millennials, there is scope to broaden horizons and look towards the older generations as well.

We have already heard how a number of employers are taking a proactive stance to understanding employees’ concerns and demands. Indeed, as Catherine Boddington noted, in a recent Sideboard interview, how – as we will all be living and working for longer – we are ever more likely to make multiple career changes. With this could come benefits.

New ways of working and approaches to the labour market drives a greater focus on transferable skills and the ability to adapt and carry forward talents into new working environments. Creative employment solutions, aimed at tapping into this potential, could well stand to reap the benefits of an experienced and knowledgeable workforce.

Revising the perception of oldness

Since 2018, there are more people aged 65 or above globally than children under five, according to the UN. If today’s youth is set to inherit the future, then it is our ageing populations that are defining what that inheritance will look like, right now.

With older people set to live for longer, their healthspan is also likely to extend. There is an expectation that with developments in medical science and technology, many illnesses can be overcome, or at least proactively managed in way that does not prevent the sufferer from working. Demand for services and products that support this lifestyle means a generation commanding a significant portion of economic activity. This creates a growing group of consumers, workers, and innovators.

With the notion of ‘retirement’ becoming less rigid, with older generations now keen to remain physically and mentally alert well beyond the traditional retirement age, the post-65 stage of life is likely to form a substantial portion of peoples’ career and social activity.

Unlocking the ‘Longevity Economy’

The threat of an ageing society to the global economic system has long been the predominant school of thought. Increasing the stress upon healthcare whilst reducing the workforce, the idea of oldness has been one that negatively effects the economy. This, according to the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, Dr Joseph Coughlin, needs reassessing.

For him, ‘oldness’ is a social construct that is not reflective of how people live after middle age and businesses should accordingly serve the changing needs of the older generation, rather than obeying conventional wisdom.

As elders live longer and healthier lives, so their ability and freedom to work increases. The implications of this for businesses is a workforce that can extend economic productivity. Deloitte has called this the ‘Longevity Dividend’. In Germany, as reported by the FT earlier this year, some manufacturers such as Porsche are accounting for this by producing ergonomic tools that allow people to work deeper into old age. Innovative solutions are being implemented to mitigate the risk that an ageing population may well stifle the economy.

For me, society should look to avoid writing off the older generations, particularly those able and capable of working and contributing, imbue them with confidence and harness the potential opportunity. It is likely to mean having to be considerate of flexible working needs and requests, but that’s a good thing. Answering the challenge of adapting to an older workforce could mean major opportunity.