Ageism is not a simple problem

Recent proposals from the Federal Government to lift the pension age to 70 years have been responded to with fear and horror.

Horror that we will all be required to work til we are 70 in order to afford any kind of standard retirement.

Fear that older people will be competing with younger people for jobs at a time of high unemployment for young people and not enough jobs for everyone.

From an economic policy perspective, working til we’re 70 makes good sense fiscally. However recent arguments in the US around almost the same policy have resulted in arguments about the creation of further inequality among older adults dependent on their income and kind of work.  Of course, for blue collar workers, working til 70 may not be possible. For white collar workers, the prospects are better. Couple that with the likelihood that a white collar worker is also receiving a higher income and will likely live longer than a blue collar worker and this policy starts to seem not so great.

The issue requires more complex thought and a shift in perception and policies related to superannuation and pensions. Linear working lives are not the way of the future. Think about a future where reinvention is necessary, jobs don’t last longer then 4-5 years and we can access our savings and superannuation to take ‘retirement’ breaks when we are in our 50s and 60s, returning to different jobs or work after each break. Sound crazy? This might not be that far off.

Redefining work, retirement and ageing are necessary for the age of knowledge and for human beings to continue to feel meaning and value in their lives. Working til 70 is fine in theory, but as a mandatory retirement age policy, it doesn’t work. Right now, 45 is old in the workplace and we have yet to learn how to manage our ageing workforces. This cannot be a case of one-size fits all. Workplaces need to start redefining how the operate, how they can capitalise on the opportunities that ageing brings (think mentoring and handing down of know-how to younger generations) and start implementing change strategies to address ageism and discrimination.

Maybe when that’s ticked off the list, we can start to consider longer working lives that bring us wellbeing and happiness not fear and horror.

Cartoon by Simon Kneebone

About the Author: Leonie Sanderson is Co-founder and Director at The Ageing Revolution. She is a skilled moderator and speaker, and committed to challenging ageing stereotypes at every opportunity.

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