Boldies over 50 are a valuable resource in tackling the post-pandemic world

    Boldies over 50 are a valuable resource in tackling the post-pandemic world

    By Nigel Pritchard. Published 2021-01-09


    Policymakers and organisations need to ‘wake-up’ and consider the value that the over 50s can deliver

    2020 was a year like no other. For many it was a year that they will want to consign to the proverbial dustbin. But, like any pebble cast into a pond, the ripples will continue to radiate and in the case of the pandemic, may do so for generations to come. Many commentators believe the repercussions will be felt ever more keenly with the phase out of the government’s furlough and business assistance packages. Leaving a whole host of organisations struggling to survive and many people facing the prospect of losing their job. With the vaccines marching over the hill to battle with the virus, minds are now turning to what comes next and how we save jobs, rebuild our economy and deal with the societal issues that have been amplified by Covid-19.Not since the early 1980s have we faced this potential number of job losses. Analysis shows that at the height of the UK’s job retention scheme 2.7 million over-50s were furloughed and the number of unemployed over-50s in the UK increased by a third in the past year. This runs the risk of reversing the many years of improvement in the employment rates of older workers. The Centre for Ageing Better has pointed out that over the last couple of decades the employment rate of people aged 50 to 64 rose from 60 per cent to more than 70 per cent, important given that the pension age has risen to 66 and will rise again in a few years’ time. seniors at work 2.jpegTaking a closer look at the analysis shows it is both the youngest and oldest employees that were impacted most and The Resolution Foundation, in a study late last year, found that furloughed workers in the 55 to 64 age group were the least likely to return to work. It’s not only jobs or the survival of organisations be they charities, the arts, social enterprises or businesses that are at issue, tangentially related we also see the rise of ageism, again putting us in danger of reversing so much of the good work that has been undertaken over the past few years. In a recent study, Ageist Britain? researchers surveyed 4,000 people and reviewed social media and blogs, on behalf of the financial services firm Sun Life. They found that more than a third of Britons admitted to having discriminated against people because of their age. Furthermore, during their 7-day review of online blogs and tweets they found 2,400 ageist terms. But, it’s not just language, policy can also be ageist. Just one example is the U.K.’s first lockdown and the shielding policy which attacked the liberties of those over 70. Professor Chris Whitty, the U.K.’s Chief Medical Officer, said the over-60s have a good chance of surviving if infected and the “great majority” of those as old as 80 will recover. In fact, many people in their 70s and beyond are as 'fit as a butcher's dog' to borrow a phrase from our current PM. Comorbidities are the real issue and can impact people of all ages, so let’s focus on this and not depict older people as frail and vulnerable. Not many amongst us would consider running a marathon at a 100, like Fauja Singh, or be a world record ultra-marathon runner like Helen Klein, who only took up running in her 50s, or would dream of gaining a doctorate at 102, which is exactly what Ingeborg Rapoport did. In a recent article we highlighted comments from The British Society of Gerontology commenting on the UKs self-isolation plans, when they succinctly pointed out: ‘There are currently more than 360,000 people over 70 in paid work, including one in seven men between 70 and 75 and one in sixteen women. Almost one million people over the age of 70 provide unpaid care, including one in seven women in their 70s. One in five people aged between 70 and 85, over 1.5 million people, volunteer in their communities. People in good health are especially likely to volunteer at older ages with almost a third of those in their early 70s doing so. Older adults should not be excluded but should be seen as a vital and necessary part of economic and community life.’In the UK, the over 50’s account for more than a 1/3rd of the population and people of pension age exceed those aged under 16. Even more illuminating is that today there are 4 people of working age globally, for every person over 65 (called the support ratio, an ageist term in of itself). 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.These demographics present real opportunity for those that understand and grasp it. But to do so will require seismic shifts in government policy, ageist attitudes and behaviours and innovation, with the re-framing of ‘boldies’ as an important asset, resource and key in our post-pandemic economic and societal recovery.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% of all scientific and 15% of 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. senior at work 1.jpegSo, if you want to kick start the economy, help organisations survive, build a ‘greener', more inclusive future what better way than invest in those that already have abundant: life, problem solving and business skills, as well as the experience of operating through earlier crises and who have calm heads and are willing to re-train, to help and to build a better future for all generations. Boris Johnson and his chancellor Rishi Sunak, when setting out their future roadmap, should think seriously about the positive role Boldies can play in creating value and opportunity. Most importantly they need to challenge and tackle all forms of endemic ageism in our society. However, it is 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.As we have said before, ‘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.’

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