Longer life model requires switch from recreation to re-creation

Patchy at best, must do better – the report-card phrases that fit when assessing how government and big business are responding to the social revolution of healthy, longer lives.

On The Big Middle this time, Susan delves into what needs to change with Andrew Scott, economics professor at London Business School and co-author of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. _______________________________________________________________________

Hear what when:

  • How students react to news they’ll need to work for decades more
  • Negative reaction to longer, working lives from people over 40 fed on fantasies of retirement leisure pleasure

    “People are unaware of the gains in life expectancy that have happened and they tend to judge both their life expectancy and their life plan on what their parents or even grandparents did and that model is trying to >be stretched to fit a longer lifespan and it’s not really working very well.”

  • Why he’s had to adapt what was a “pretty miserable” lecture on ageing society to reflect obsolescence of current, three-stage life model

    “We have more time and time is a social construct. In the 20th century, we invented the weekend, we invented teenagers, we invented retirement. And in the 21st century, we’re having to reinvent whole new stages and we see people in their 20s behaving differently, in their 70s behaving differently,, and in their 40s and 50s. But what we haven’t really done is change our structure of life, we still have this three-stage life of education, work and retirement. That worked well for 70 years but if you’re living to 100, that second stage becomes a 60-year career.”

  • Need for governments to do more than extend retirement age; policy lag in dealing with reality of healthy, longer lives

    “Governments are always schizophrenic in this area because they worry about Monday morning but they’re quite prepared to do things that affect you 50 or 100 years ahead. It’s the bit between one year and five years that they tend not to try and touch and corporates,in general, are even worse than governments in this regard – they’re doing, with a few exceptions, relatively very little.“

  • The new, positive narrative around ageing he promotes in book is resonating with baby boomers as it becomes a real issue rather than a prospect
  • Japanese government has set up a commission for how to live a 100-year life in response to book
  • Structural disconnect and stereotypes that were never valid persist – that older workers are unproductive and can’t learn; huge challenge because social change happens slowly; limited social experimentation; ageism is endemic
  • Business case to hire older workers? Greater fitness and productivity, better soft skills, demographic trend of falling immigration in US and UK, technological advances: robotics and artificial intelligence are fantastic for supporting older workers – AI a “cognitive prosthetic”, helps with memory tasks
  • With current three-stage life model, big challenge that corporates still lack means of measuring productivity, therefore age is big component in salary determination so even if older workers maintain or increase productivity, they are first to go when cost-cutting because of high wages
  • Human Resources departments need to design more flexible packages to keep older workers
  • Lack of access points to existing pool of jobs for older workers; “missing market” may soon be served by innovators outside large corporates with development of app to match workers with opportunities
  • Three-stage life obsolete – need to prepare for longer working life rather than have transitions forced upon you but tough because many in constant survival mode, no financial freedom to manage transition

    “There is only one thing worse than a life that is nasty, brutish and short and that’s a life that is nasty, brutish and long.”

  • Precarity of gig and freelance work, prospect of portable benefits; risk now transferred to individuals because civil society hasn’t moved, as it did during industrial revolution, to protect workers rights and social fabric
  • Lack of coordinated, mainstream approach to longer lives by policymakers because, as during industrial revolution, “we don’t know what to do.”
  • The need to quit chasing recreation and focus on re-creation

    “With the industrial revolution we saw the growth of the leisure industry – entertainment – but we’re now seeing the growth of a leisure industry that’s about investment in yourself.. your health, keeping fit, family time, community, learning new skills.”

  • Academic colleague Herminia Ibarra (Professor of Organisational Behaviour, London Business School) specialising in transitions says we used to wait to get fired or promoted to have a transition, now you’ll be causing your transitions
  • Living a better, longer life isn’t just about money, it’s also about three other intangible asset classes: productive – skills, knowledge, professional network; vitality – mental and physical health, personal relationships; transformational – ability to deal with change
  • Need to change our own mindsets about ageing –”juvenescence” – being less fixed in habits, being more open-minded, more playful…preserving spirit of adolescence, being open to new things and new ideas, new relationships, new skills
  • Push to achieve, perform can be exhausting
  • Time to retire retirement as we know it
  • Need to break down intergenerational divide – biological age matters most but we insist on measuring people by chronological age, a crude measurement that does not reflect diversity of ageing experience
  • Absurdity of classifying people according to birth dates

    “The idea that you can characterise vast numbers of millions of people by the fact they like avocado and they’re completely different to you in their 70s is ridiculous – people are just people. We need to break down that intergenerational divide and our reliance on chronological age – that’s at the heart of all these challenges.”

  • Why he’s “very nervous” about prevalent intergenerational conflict story – importance of social norms and need for wholesale redesign of life course ___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 


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Hosted + produced by Susan Flory

Music: “Beautiful Day” by Sahin Koc


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