Scared of Getting Old?

Scared of Getting Old and of Working?

Are you scared of getting old? Well, I am.  What with the reports on hospital staffing levels, cut back on benefits, raising the retirement age, increased cases of dementia and all in the context of looming Brexit changes.

And what if you have a terrible disease such as motor neurone disease and trapped in your body (my personal nightmare) – how can you escape with those around you likely prosecuted for assisting a suicide.

And living wills – where you make a difficult decision regarding medical treatment.

How depressing it all seems and I am sailing headlong to this place.

A report from the House of Lords tells us that care for the elderly is in crisis and that the Government has to put in new standards of care to make sure that the elderly are cared for in the community due primarily to costs.

Evidence to the enquiry showed in some areas those aged 85+ will increase by over 100% in the next decade. An extract from the report on Ready for Ageing, also gives some frightening statistics about caring for the elderly:

It is predicted that by 2030, men aged 65 in the UK will expect to live to age 88, and women to 91.

As people live longer, they will need enough income to support a good quality of life. But many are not saving enough to pay for a decent standard of living over a much longer retirement. People should, therefore, be enabled to extend their working lives if they wish to do so, as a vital part of the response to increased longevity

Work and Ageing – points from the report

The Government says that an individual working for longer would increase income from work, potentially increase savings, and cut the time of dependence on those savings.  This often improves health and brings social and intellectual benefits.

Employing older workers can benefit employers by using older people’s experience and knowledge to improve the workplace.

The Government and employers need to work to end ‘cliff-edge’ retirement, by enabling more people to work part-time and to wind down work and take up pensions flexibly.

Deferring state and private pensions should be appealing to older workers.

Employers need to be confident about employing older people and help them adapt, re-skill, and move to more suitable roles and hours when they want to do so. They should support those with caring responsibilities for older people to work part-time or flexibly.  And I agree but hardly practical in small to medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) where each worker performs many job roles already and must multi-task to meet job requirements.

The Government should, with employers, help support those in manual or low-skilled jobs, who might need to work longer but have the most difficulty in doing so.

Welfare to work policies should also address the needs of older people.

Age Discrimination in the Workplace

The Equality Act brought together legislation about discrimination in the workplace, and one strand is age discrimination.  Nowadays you do not have to put your date of birth or age on application forms and automatic processes determined by age alone are generally considered discriminatory, although health and safety concerns must always be addressed whatever age.  Yet employers are quick to look for signs of age with the old ‘O’ level qualifications or dates of schooling; taking off the potential for candidates  to enter their date of birth from an application form is a gimmick which merely makes employers search a bit harder for evidence of age.

A production plant with steam coming out of many chimneys
Industrial plant

Job Availability

So the Government has done its best to promote continuing work past 65 but is this practical?  The number of people out of work rose by 7,000 to 2.52 million in the three months to January 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics.

And the number claiming welfare benefits in February 2013 was 1.5 million.

Before we promote longer working lives, surely we should have more jobs available? Working for longer possible will need changes to attitudes, as well as policy and practice.

Perhaps the answer is not to promote longer working or more jobs, but the quality of life at any part of existence. But people have to feel part of society.  This could be by having a good job, but good health helps for making a choice.

Individuals need to understand that poor health behaviour can have devastating effects on old age, such as, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caused by smoking or cancers from work exposure.

We all know taking exercise and sensible eating contributes to good health outcomes, but do we do that?

Health Promotion

The Uk doesn’t have a public platform where messages are broadcast; we rely mainly on the GP and the NHS: but workplaces are ideal for health messages.

Wellbeing can be as simple as a poster campaign or a short health message on a payslip.  Maybe a leaflet on avoiding risky health behaviour or where to go to for advice.

We need to change employers attitudes to older workers.  Occupational health can help in alerting the workforce of the dangers that lurk in old age and how they avoided.

So it’s not an economic message but a wellbeing initiative needed instead.

Further Reading

Wellbeing in the Workplace

Wellbeing Resources

Steps to a Workplace Wellbeing Programme

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