Quality or Longevity
Futurists love talking about new trends and innovations but what about longevity? Maybe the future of work isn’t about shiny new things. Maybe it’s about leaving behind old, unhealthy ways of working. Can we ditch outdated practices that don’t serve us anymore?
Today, we put generations into boxes. We focus on young people starting work, assuming it’s business as usual. But we often miss the point. We stick to outdated trends. And instead of seeing opportunities to create connection between the generations, as we have six in the workplace today, we divide and talk about each one individually. Why not collectively focus on our biggest opportunities instead?
Take retirement, for example. It’s a relatively new idea, born in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Before that, people worked until they died or couldn’t. Farming or family businesses didn’t leave room for idle hands. Industrialization changed all that. More of us started factory and office jobs. There was no place for the old and slow.
In 1889, Germany’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck introduced the first government retirement system. He set the retirement age at 70. It was a safety net for aging workers. But back then, many didn’t live to see 70.
In the US, retirement spread during the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce. The government needed to make room for young workers. The 1935 Social Security Act provided income for the elderly. It set the retirement age at 65. It was a way to take care of older folks who couldn’t work like they used to and also kept jobs open for younger workers in an either or world.
Then we created a trend called the bucket list. It’s a to-do list before we “kick the bucket.” It’s a list of life’s hopes and dreams when we retire. Why even have a list for some day when every day matters?
Embracing the Longevity Revolution
But times are changing. Birthrates are falling worldwide. And many aren’t retiring. More folks over 65 are staying on the job. It’s changing our work culture in big ways. What keeps people going? Some need the money. But many just want to contribute. We don’t want to feel irrelevant. And this is true at every age! Meaning, purpose and impact are increasingly important to all of us.
While workforce numbers are down for younger folks, older workers are on the rise. The Wall Street Journal says the number of workers aged 75 and older will double between 2020 and 2030. Longevity means longer work for some. But for many, work brings joy and connection. There is something about being needed and having meaning that is more and more important.
Companies are catching on. They’re tossing out forced retirements and creating new ways for older workers to contribute. We have so many new opportunities right here right now to bring the change we need. Older workers bring skills that are very needed today.
So, is retirement still relevant? Do we need to drag it into the future? Can we write new stories that work for us, instead of forcing old systems to fit? Some find meaning in work, even into their 80s and 90s. That’s worth thinking about.
Working together enriches our lives. Our opportunities are like gems. Each one shines a different light, like a prism. We are being called to connect our generations around what matters and maybe also bring in young people to design and create what work will look like for generations?