While Millennials and their spending habits are popular topics of discussions, articles and statistics, the focus has not really been on older generations such as the Traditionalists, born 1945 or earlier and the Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. And although they might not be the focus for the distant future, I believe older generations make a very important contribution to the economy.
People are living longer.
“Over the last 200 years people in all countries in the world achieved impressive progress in health that lead to increases in life expectancy. In the UK, life expectancy doubled and is now higher than 80 years. In Japan health started to improve later, but the country caught up quickly with the UK and surpassed it in the late 1960s. In South Korea health started to improve later still and the country achieved even faster progress than the UK and Japan; by now life expectancy in South Korea has surpassed life expectancy in the UK.” (Go to ourworldindata.org for more information and very interesting statistics.)
Many older people are dependent on pensions and schemes and are seen as a burden to the economy. There is of course an element of that, but as life expectancy often correlates to economic strength, there is also another side to the issue. Specialised services for senior citizens can greatly contribute to the economy: retirement housing, care services and medical requirements are priorities to a big part of the older-growing population and bring unique economic opportunities.
“Today, there are more individuals age 65 and older than ever before and these 600 million individuals are placing pressure on established retirement systems. By 2050, the World Bank estimates that the global elder population will more than triple to 2.1 billion people, making retirement security one of the most pressing social issues facing the world in the next 30 years.” (Read more on Natixis.com)
While the economy can definitely benefit from these opportunities, there is also the challenge of how the older-growing generation will be able to afford all their unique needs. Retirement in the sense of terminating employment at age 60 / 65 and living from pension funds and savings, is increasingly becoming a luxury most cannot afford. Rising living costs, maintaining a standard of living, inflation, increased medical expenses, etc. make it very difficult to live with only a basic income that does not keep up with inflation – and to do that for a period of up to 30 years!
It seems like a no-brainer that in a time where health and life expectancy are so much better, that we should keep working for longer! Perhaps 65 as retirement age is not viable anymore. While we need to create opportunities for younger people, I think there is a place in the employment market for those over 65.
My opinion on the importance of mentorship is well-recorded and I think our solution lies exactly here – tapping into the knowledge and experience worth a lifetime’s career! Why do we not use the expertise of the older generations as mentors or guides or guardians to train and assist and facilitate programs? In this way, not only do they continue to earn, but they also greatly contribute to the economy in a way that is much more than renting a retirement cottage in a picturesque village!
Featured image caption: Having tea with Bernard Luttich and his charming wife in our restaurant on the estate. Bernard was my manager and mentor at Windmeul Cellars many years ago and I still treasure what he has taught me – about wine, business and life.