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Guest blog: Ageing. That’s life.

Popular culture would have us believe that once we are forty, we are more or less washed up and on a downhill trajectory. It’s easy to agree with this view if our thinking is aligned with cultural conditioning that sees age as a category (of young or old) rather than a continual process across the life course.

We live in a time where there is optimal knowledge, networks and shared experiences. This provides us with the opportunity to use a broader lens with which to view the world and ourselves. Paradigms are not only shifting but also morphing. Age categories have become blurred as we realise that this thing called ‘ageing’ is a life course matter.

We count no matter what our age is.

Things do not necessarily come to a screaming halt after our 50s or 60s. In fact many of us will live long active lives until our 80s or 90s. So why do the myths, attitudes and stereotypes about age persist?

It’s one thing to insist that we should not have stereotypical attitudes about age, but another to explore some of the factors that contribute to these pervasive ageist attitudes.

Ageism, culture & attitudes

Our individual worldview is arguably the combination of our personality, preferences and the internalised cultural layers that we grew up with. These are strong influences in our psyche. If we grow up in a culture that continually reveres youth, and diminishes the value of the old, we run the risk of internalising ageist views. This makes it hard for ourselves when we move from ‘in-group’ (young) to the ‘out-group’ (old, and “over the hill”). If we have adopted the view that age is a category of either ‘young’ or ‘old’ we become disheartened when we no longer belong to the ‘revered group’. This leaves us feeling diminished and irrelevant. Yet it is due to our own thinking.

Live longer: 5 ways to be positive about ageing

Studies have shown that those with more positive self-perceptions of ageing tend to live over 7 years longer than those with less positive attitudes. They also enjoy better functional health as they reach their senior years. So, start peeling back some of these cultural layers that hold negative messages about age with these five things:

  1. Understand that ageing commences from the time of conception and continues until death (not from an arbitrary number like 40, 50 or 60 etc).
  2. Ageing is a natural part of the life cycle.
  3. Be honest with yourself about your age. Embrace it, and flourish within your current stage of life instead of wishing for past stages (reminiscing is one thing, fixating on the past is another). Live in the present.
  4. Let go of ideas of wanting to look, seem, dress or act ‘younger’. Also, don’t give compliments by stating someone looks ‘younger’ than they are, or doesn’t ‘look’ their age.
  5. Live a full life. Be friends with people of all ages. Being younger is neither better nor worse than being older. Realise that no matter what your age, you will continue this journey, god willing, until you are at the age when you need the help of your great-grand kids to blow out your birthday candles!

If you’d like to know more, contact Three Sisters Group – specialists in providing knowledge and insights on the burgeoning over 50s market.

Photo by Lucas Gruwez on Unsplash

 

Washed up jar of possibility with older workers

Are older workers considered washed up?

Few organisations have a strategic approach to managing their older workers. This issue persists despite research by Deloitte Access Economics that shows a 3 percent increase in the participation rate of workers over 55 could account for a $33 billion boost to Australia’s national economy.

The Challenge

Given the prevalence of age stereotypes in the workplace, there are some critical questions organisations need to ask:

  1. Do we understand the needs, hopes and aspirations of older workers?
  2. What are the attitudes and beliefs of younger workers towards ageing and older workers?
  3. What can we do to increase age diversity and meet the needs of all parties without negatively impacting the bottom line?

As Dr Rickwood suggests in her recent interview with Fran Kelly on Radio National, “HR policies and practices haven’t shifted to accommodate what is a burgeoning possibility in a workforce of older people”.

There are numerous examples of Australian companies that are already reaping the economic benefits of embracing an older workforce. The most well-known example being Bunnings Warehouse, which employs large numbers of older, highly-skilled tradespeople. No longer able to continue in physically demanding jobs, these people instead are offering a lifetime’s worth of expertise to Bunnings shoppers.

The Facts

According to the Age Discrimination Commissioner’s report ‘Willing to Work’, 12.7% of those aged 65 and over are in the labour force; however, this figure is expected to double by 2055.

Historically, we considered 60 or 65 to be the age at which we retired.  Or, for the financially savvy, we saw 55 years old to be “lucky”.

Unfortunately, this view of 65 as the age at which we retire largely remains. We dream of when the constraints of a workplace end, and travel and leisure beckon. However, increasingly, people are discovering that early retirement isn’t nearly as attractive as perceptions hold it to be. Indeed, many baby boomers see ‘retirement’ as a change of career.  It’s a time when they are able to enjoy more flexibility to pursue their passions and interests, whether paid or voluntary. For example, recent Australian of the Year, Graham Farquhar, revealed in an interview that he enjoyed being able to continue working in his area of expertise on an unpaid basis.  

According to research by MetLife (UK), 63% of over 50’s in their survey would consider re-training to stay working longer. There is also evidence to suggest that greater initiative is required by both older workers and businesses for training and re-skilling.

For example, organisations that invest in retention of their older, skilled workers are discovering higher organisational productivity. Similarly, it’s essential for all workers to continue to learn and educate themselves to remain relevant.

The Opportunity

Underpinning these burgeoning human resource issues is an absence of conversations with all staff – regardless of age – about their attitudes and beliefs towards ageing and remaining in the workforce beyond 50. It’s these conversations that can provide insights into how to create an open, all-age-friendly workplace environment and culture.

It is forecast that 85% of jobs in 2030 don’t yet exist. By the end of the next decade there is also a predicted shortage of workers. These two facts alone suggest that now is the time to reshape the workforce. Through their human resource policies, organisations have the opportunity to redesign work and jobs to promote flexibility. From phased or partial retirement, role transfers, blended work, bridge employment to intergenerational job sharing.

Ultimately, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson, Age Discrimination Commissioner, reminds us: “Intergenerational offices do a lot better than ones fixated on just one age group”.

Does your organisation have its finger on the pulse of the over 50’s in the office?

If you would like to better understand the over 50’s, contact us.

Photo by Andrew Bui on Unsplash

3 ideas for relevance in retirement

If you’ve heard the term “relevance deprivation” you may be older and possibly retired. Alternatively, you may be between jobs or a parent who has become an “empty nester”.  Regardless of your situation, remaining relevant is an individual responsibility.  And it can be challenging.

I’ve written before about my dislike of the word ‘retirement’. One of the many reasons for my preference to avoid the word is because it signals an endpoint. A time in our life when we’ll stop all the hard work and move to a life of leisure filled with choice. Our choice. Our way. No boss. Bliss!

What if …

We didn’t retire.  What if, instead of retiring we simply kept on living. Fully. Completely. Engaged.

Not thinking “I’m old” because old is equated with retirement.

What if, from a much younger age, we made choices and decisions knowing that life was long. Very long. Knowing that if we retire at 65 we’ll still live for 20 or more years.

What choices would we make? How differently would we live our life?

There’s work.  Then there’s retirement.

When working we remain relevant because we have purpose and meaning. There’s a reason to get up each day. At work people want us because of our knowledge, skill, or experience. We receive phone calls, emails, and invitations. Invitations to lunch. To Melbourne Cup events. To Christmas functions. Our birthday might be celebrated in the office with a cake. People notice when we’re away for an extended time and are usually grateful for our return. We’re valued. And all we have to do is show up to our workplace. Easy.

In retirement, this can all disappear. There is no office. The phone calls, emails, and invitations diminish. Whether or not we get up each day may not be noticed – by anyone.  Unless we’re in a relationship or we have adult children living with us. What happens in our day must be generated entirely by us. It requires energy, effort, and self-motivation. Less easy.

In a youth- focused culture, relevancy can feel even more challenging. Combined with an increasingly technology, digital driven world, becoming and remaining digital-savvy may also seem overwhelming.

Given this challenge, what are the options?

3 ideas for retirement relevance

In a recent podcast interview with SBS, I suggested that it was essential we all continue to learn and educate ourselves to remain relevant. Whilst the podcast was particularly focused on the disparities between millenials and older workers, those interviewed provided practical actions for reducing the gap. As I’ve said before, generational labelling was also suggested as divisive and not overly useful as a way of identifying groups of people.

Bridging a generational gap requires understanding and a willingness for both younger and older people to learn from each other. An openness and recognition that there is more than one way to do anything. And that attachment to “our way” or the “right way” limits the possibility for new ideas, innovation, and creativity.

Intergenerational relationships are crucial for us to age well. Consequently, building them into our lives is essential.

The 3 ideas?

  1. Continue learning. Whether that be through Open University, U3A, TAFE, University, free online MOOC’s, or by attending events at your local library. Foster a thirst for knowledge.
  2. Participate in community activities or hobbies where you’ll also meet and befriend younger people. Community gardens, bush regeneration, environmental or animal activist groups, book or film clubs. If there’s not one in your neighbourhood, create one.
  3. Be open. Say “yes”.

For inspiration on how to age we have role models in Judy Dench and Jane Goodall. One thing’s for sure. To remain relevant in retirement requires us to reject age stereotypes and embrace our whole life – from start to finish.

 

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

 

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2 benefits of a big, hairy a** goal as we age

Goals have a significant impact on what we do each day, how we live, and how we feel about ourselves. They can be both motivating and disheartening. Motivating when we achieve the goal we set. Disheartening when we under-achieve or miss the goal altogether. Without goals we can become rudderless and life can lack real purpose and meaning.

What’s this got to do with becoming older?

The importance of goals

When thinking or planning for later life, setting goals is as important as our younger years when we often set goals associated with things such as sport, career, or money. Whilst establishing financial goals is important, money alone does not buy happiness.  Ease, comfort, and security perhaps.  But not happiness.  Goals about other aspects of our life give us something to get up for each day – to work towards so that there’s a sense of achievement in our lives.

As I’ve said previously, it would serve us all well if we eliminated the word ‘retirement’ from our vocabulary. Whilst most people do want to stop working at some point, setting ambitious personal goals to coincide with the event is not usually built into people’s thinking.

Crashing age stereotypes

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet a vibrant, active 65 year old woman, Astrid, who had walked the infamous Camino track – a walk of 780km from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to the stunning cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  The walk takes up to 5 weeks. Astrid shared how many people were either surprised she’d done it, or considered her “too old” to be embarking on such an adventure.

Clearly, age stereotypes and ageism contributed to people’s perceptions of what’s OK and what’s not OK for someone with grey hair and some wrinkles.

There’s more to this story.

Astrid, had a big goal with a plan.

First, she had to wait a year so that her foot surgery and hip injury could heal. Then Astrid worked with a trainer 3 times a week to align her body and strengthen her legs. She joined Weight Watchers to lose 15 pounds to reduce the load on her joints and made a deliberate decision to only carry a day pack for the duration of the walk.  Her heavier luggage was transported to her accommodation each day. And, throughout the walk, Astrid chose the road less travelled in order to enjoy the quieter paths and nature.

Astrid chose a big, hairy a** goal (BHAG).

Benefits of goals as we age

The benefits of a BHAG are twofold:

  1. Ambitious and less ambitious goals contribute to a more active and healthier life. Without them we risk falling into the trap of building our lives around meal times, coffee & cake breaks, TV viewing, holidays, and medical appointments.
  2. By setting goals that are challenging we defy ageism and age stereotypes. Attitudes and beliefs about what older people can or should do are outdated. Longer lifespans require us all to re-think what we do with our lives and be more ambitious and confident about what we can do in our later years.

SMART goals

These are the 5 keys to goal setting.  Make sure your goals are:

Specific: We’ve all heard of the bucket list. It’s a list of the things we want to do before we die. Interestingly, it’s become so much a part of our vernacular, even younger people talk about their bucket list! Goals can be a bucket list. However, the goals for living will influence what we do in our daily lives.  Whether that’s learning to fly a glider or volunteering. If volunteering is a goal, what type of organisation would you seek to work with? One associated with children, the environment, mental health, older people, the homeless, or refugees? The options are endless. Check that your goals match your current interests or are associated with an area you’d like to know more about.

Measurable: Ensure that you have a sense of achievement by putting measurable goals in place.  Simply thinking, ‘I’m going to volunteer’ is noble.  However, you may want to establish a goal of volunteering for a certain number of hours or days per week.  Alternatively, you may choose to work as a volunteer to raise money for a charity. Set a goal of how much money you’ll raise. When you’ve achieved the goal … reward yourself.

Achievable: Ambitious goals are great. And, they may take time to achieve. So, break the BHAG into smaller goals. Imagine trying to eat an elephant. The only way to successfully do that would be to eat it one bite at a time. Big BHAG’s are the same. One step at a time.

Realistic: Ensuring the goal is something that you can actually do is essential. Whilst you may have dreamt of flying to the moon, becoming an astronaut is probably unrealistic.  However, parachuting may not be. Going back to University may be something you’d like to do, however fees may make it prohibitive.  Look for a course via a free MOOC (massive online open community) or attend University of the Third Age instead.

Timely: Set a timeframe for taking action and then completion. All talk, no action leads to a lack of fulfilment and a sense of failure. The action may be as simple as researching which volunteer organisation you’d like to work with. When will you do this? By what date will you have made your decision? Then, when will you fill in the application or call to get on their list? When will you follow up? If not successful, which charity was #2 on your list? When will you fill in that application? And so on. Importantly, be realistic with setting timelines and deadlines.  Don’t make them too short, nor too long. Diarise the actions, or write a list and tick each item off once done. Each tick is another step towards achieving your goal. Another bite of the elephant.

Goal ideas

Ambitious goals might be:

  • Climbing to Everest base camp;
  • Hiking the Kokoda Track;
  • Sailing around the world;
  • Learning a new language;
  • Studying again.

Less ambitious goals, but equally valuable, could be as simple as:

  • Volunteering a certain number of days or hours per week;
  • Participating in a community-based activity such as walking or a cycling group;
  • Taking up a past hobby or interest such as a musical instrument or painting;
  • Ensuring that some time is spent with younger people each week/fortnight/month in order to benefit from the youthful energy and enthusiasm that those younger than us bring to a conversation and relationship.

By building on current interests, or exploring new activities, we expand our friendships, bring purpose and meaning into our lives, and increase our chances of a happier, healthier life – right up until the end. And surely, that can only be a good thing.

What are your BHAG’s?

 

Photo by Gautam Arora on Unsplash

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How old is old?

“I don’t feel my age.”

Old isn’t a number.
Old is an attitude.
Old is more likely to be associated with physical or cognitive decline.

Discussions we’ve held with baby boomers reveals that people often feel ten or twenty years (or more) younger than their actual age! Often, old was either someone else, or someone older.

For example, one 60+ male said:

“I still feel the same as when I was 25, but physically I can’t do the same things.”

A female between 50-60 said:

“I don’t think I feel any different to when I was 40. “

Along with feeling younger than their actual age, baby boomers also expressed a sense of confidence. They associate this with an internal sense of knowing themselves better. Women, in particular, feel more confident and declare a sense of freedom with becoming older. This is generally a result of either being empty-nesters or their children being older and more independent. The days of nappies, dressing small children, and Mum as taxi-driver are often behind them.

It was also common for baby boomers to express frustration at being ignored or labeled as “old”. A recurring story from a number of people was associated with a frustration and irritation with news stories about people 60 years old (for example) being reported as either an ‘old person’ or ‘old people’.

 

Males vs Females

Men and women seem to have an awareness that there’s a need to reinvent their life as they age. Awareness that this includes a good diet, exercise, creation of personal relationships, and a need to be doing something beyond travel and relaxation is understood. What we noticed in our face-to-face discussions is that women often embraced this enthusiastically. Whilst men had the same awareness, they could be more confronted as they considered the transition from full-time work to something else. Women had experienced flexible lifestyles associated with being the primary carer in the family and had reinvented themselves throughout their lives. Also, women often had stronger social networks beyond the workplace. For many men, creating a life beyond and outside of a full-time job was a first time experience.

Regardless of gender, everyone that participated in the discussions found a sense of reassurance in the conversation. Sharing stories and views about their lived experience of ageing were viewed as positive, enlightening, and stimulating.

 

Key Lessons

The most important lesson is that ageing is all about attitude.

Three other lessons:

  • Talk about becoming older with friends – share your experiences. Be open and honest.
  • Enjoy the sense of confidence and freedom that comes with ageing.
  • Ignore stereotypes and defy the ageist attitudes often peddled in the media and online.

Of course, ageing also comes with its difficulties. Financial concerns, caring responsibilities, and physical or cognitive decline pose challenges. These will be discussed in the future. Stay tuned. And, if there were anything you’d particularly like to learn more about or understand, please let us know.

 

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Forget Generation X, Y, Z, and Baby Boomers

Generational labels that divide.

Population divisions based on the year we are born.

What if we removed the labels and simply met each other as people, with a variety of wants, needs and challenges that span age?

What would happen to the smashed avocado debate then?

Read more

2 reminders about ageing

“Age is just an abstraction not a straight-jacket.”

Read more

When my Dad died …

I was 28. He was 61. At the time I thought he’d had a good innings because he was, after all, ‘old’. That was nearly 25 years ago. Now I know I was wrong. What do I think now? Read more