As Boldies, we the over 50’s are critical to the post Covid-19 recovery
By Nigel Pritchard. Published 2020-08-23
Boldies are not invisible and are needed more than ever as the country rebuilds
If in recent years we Boldies have felt that great strides have been made to re-balance societal norms, stereotypes and attitudes surrounding ageing. And that ageing was now seen in a positive light and not as some sort of invisibility cloak, then think again.
The current pandemic has laid bare just how thin that veneer of change has been. Just consider the most recent PR debacle surrounding the re-shielding of those over 50 or the BBC licence fee furore. Not to mention the treatment of the elderly and the transition from the NHS to care homes.
As far back as 2002, Kofi Annan, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, talking of an ageing population, said, "We are in the midst of a silent revolution that extends beyond demographics, with major economic, social, cultural, psychological and spiritual implications.”
So why do older people still feel marginalised, forgotten, and invisible?
Is it because, society expects that as we near and enter retirement that we don our slippers and settle down to a quiet life, always in the background? Or from an adding value perspective we are seen in some way, as less productive. Or is it because, we are seen by many as more of a challenge and a burden as we age.
Could it be that the whole discussion and debate is conducted amidst an air of negativity? Whether that be in the media or when looking at many of the brilliant and extremely hard-working charities involved in ageing the angle of approach tends to be how to deal with negatives. Yes, housing is an issue, yes loneliness and mental wellbeing is a serious problem, yes finance is a major worry and yes, the chronic health conditions do begin to pile up. None of which should be underplayed, they are truly serious issues.
Worse still, as Boldies, is it our own approach, attitude and language that perpetuates all the above, creating the view of a self-fulfilling prophecy. How often do we say I WAS rather than I AM, or, WE WERE not WE ARE?
This whole discussion Is an important one because there needs to be a seismic shift in everyone’s attitude to ageing and what it stands for.
It is little understood that In the UK the over 50’s account for more than a 1/3rd of the UK population and people of pension age exceed those under 16 in the UK. Furthermore, by 2050, 1 in 4 of us living in Europe and North America could be aged 65 or over. Or, that the number of people aged 80 or over is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million.
Even more illuminating is that today there are 4 people of working age globally, for every person over 65 (called the support ratio). The UN says by 2050, 48 countries, mostly in Europe, Northern America, and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, are expected to have potential support ratios below two.
Taking on the opportunity these demographics present is going to require seismic shifts in policy, attitudes, and innovation, with the re-framing of older people as important and value adding.
People will want to live independent, healthier, fulfilling and more active lives, as well as aiming to live longer in their own homes. This provides businesses and the public sector with a great opportunity to innovate and provide products and services that support and tap into this golden age; education, transport, housing, AI, robotics, technology wearables, food and retail, fitness, support services, healthcare, cognitive and social wellbeing, communications and media – the list is endless.
Putting this in perspective: the European silver economy, ignoring public spending and social care, will grow to €5.1tn by 2025, which if it were a sovereign nation would be the 3rd largest economy in the world. 20% & 15% of all scientific and academic output derives from people aged 70-79. The Financial Times reported that the over 50s’ account for 43% of those who start their own businesses.
Boris Johnson and his chancellor Rishi Sunak should think on about the positive role Boldies can play in creating value and opportunity.
It’s not only government thinking that needs to change. Employers will have to as well; continuous learning, re-skilling and flexible working practices are going to be critical. Additionally, employers that can demonstrate a real ethical purpose will better align themselves to a workforce that will have one eye on the legacy they want to leave to younger generations.
If there is some good to come out of the current pandemic it is that the voices and wellbeing of the silent majority will begin to be heard. And, as Boldies it is incumbent on us to stand up and realise we are a powerful force for good and a force to be reckoned with. We are not invisible, WE ARE!, not we were.