The way of work is changing and with it the stability of work is decreasing. It used to be that when you started work many people would spend their whole working life with that same company. In the UK the generation of my parents were the 1st to experience the unpleasant reality of this no longer being the case. Downsizing, takeovers and other organisation changes led to redundancies and people in their later 40's and 50's finding themselves unemployed or not feeling competent or capable with the new tools, skills or way of work.
People expected to work their years and then retire to a simpler, easier way of life, with more time for family, friends, hobbies and other personal interests. Today our expectations are perhaps different. I have seen a number of people retiring and feeling a little lost, unsure what to do with this time they now have and how to make it meaningful.
"Speaking for myself as over 50 I see my experience and knowledge to be of value to many others and cannot imagine not having the meaning and purpose from my work in my life for the longer term. It is a passion, a drive to want to contribute to a better world and society and I see no reason why this would stop because you reach a certain age."
In times gone by, as people aged they were seen as the wise ones, with knowledge, advice, skills that needed to passed on to the younger generation that they valued and needed in their lives and communities. They were respected, valued and needed, which provided purpose and meaning throughout a person's whole life. In the age of technology and rapid change we are in today, this philosophy has changed, with the younger generation having access to knowledge, information and learning skills that some people struggle to grasp. This turns society upside down. With the younger generation being more valued and the feeling they can contribute more and more quickly than the older generation whose place is diminishing. This is of course, not true, but is a perception sometimes accepted as a truth.
"As people aged they were once respected, valued and needed, which provided them with purpose and meaning. Age of technology turned society upside down."
So what does this mean for individuals today who are in or approaching so called middle age and what does it mean for organisations who employ them?
Today we have a big focus on the value of diversity and the value this diversity brings in different ways of thinking, experiences, knowledge, skills, beliefs and values. The complexity of work and our society needs this diversity, and needs everyone to find their place where they feel valued and can make a difference that is appreciated. It's also important for each of us to have meaning and purpose in our lives which is essential for our health and wellbeing.
This applies to all kinds of diversity, culture, gender, race, personality and much more, including age. We already acknowledge and embrace much of this diversity, age is just another type of diversity for us to value and learn to understand.
"The complexity of work and our society needs diversity, and age is just another type of diversity for us to value and learn to understand."
Today many governments are starting to recognise also the social impact of an ageing workforce and the implications of this not only in the workplace, but on the family, in communities and social well being. In 5 years' time, one in every four employees in Slovenia will be older than 55.
In our work at Fast Forward, we are already well known for helping people to understand the value of diversity in our core values and behaviours and how to embrace this for the benefit of all. We are now proud to apply this also to the value of age diversity.