Age Cannot Wither Them

Conference Calls for Rethink on the Elderly

19/12/2012 Barcelona

Antonio Dávila

Better health and longer life expectancy are forcing us to change our ideas and approach to ageing and the elderly, participants at a conference on ageing and work was told at IESE last night. The Continuous Education session titled "The future of work for an ageing population: how innovation and technologies will transform organizations" was moderated by Prof. Antonio Dávila.

The professor described the IESE project on how new technologies affect older people’s working lives. "We are forcing people who still have a lot to contribute to retire," he said. While early retirement was once positively encouraged, the ageing population has forced us into a rethink. Dávila said that with increasing demand for skilled workers, education and lifelong learning has become a key factor. Research shows that a significant number of entrepreneurs are people over 50 who have worked in traditional organizations and who now want to strike out on their own.

Age discrimination is one of the major barriers to the employability of older workers, the IESE study found, which added that there are no relevant differences between older and younger workers that would explain this bias.

While the capacity to carry out physical work and some mental functions may decrease with age, other functions improve. In general, older workers are considerably better than their younger counterparts at using language, keeping their emotions in check and processing complex problems in extreme situations. They can also be expected to be more conscientious, positive and loyal than younger workers, Dávila said.

The research identified four groups of "golden" workers: the entrepreneur, the manager, the work seeker and the employee. He added that the ratio of people in work in relation to dependents (those under 16 or over 65) was decreasing and fewer people were having to support a growing dependent population. Furthermore, governments will soon not have sufficient income to meet their pension commitments.

He was then followed by Claus F. Nielsen, international business development manager at DELTA, a Danish firm that makes microchips for health applications.

"We could use technology to keep people out of hospital. We should set a goal for 2020 of 75 percent fewer hospitals," he said. Nielsen added that "we need to change the image of ageing and what older people can do."