Working beyond retirement age requires change in mindset

Reading about Japan’s move to continuously keep seniors employed (“Japan ahead of the curve in hiring seniors”, Aug 30) makes my day.

With improved healthcare that prolongs life, seniors beyond traditional retirement age have a great deal to contribute. For those who have not provided adequately for retirement, staying employed is obviously necessary to maintain a decent living.

However, it is not just a matter of numbers and finances. It is about a change in mindset.

With the ongoing discussions on raising retirement age to 67, many see continuous employment as a negative experience. Some even consider it a form of imprisonment.

I choose to see it positively.

Employed as seniors, we are able to allow our children the ability to support their nuclear families without having to worry about supporting us as well. We can also impart the wisdom of experience to our younger colleagues, helping them to go beyond being just book smart.

However, being continuously hired as seniors will require graciousness, from us to the juniors, and vice versa.

To the young, I only ask for more understanding and patience. We do have our senior moments. At 69 years young, I may not be as technologically savvy as my younger staff, but that does not stop me from learning new skills and asking them for help. My younger colleagues will tell you that I have learned to engage the brave new worlds of social media.

To the silver generation, let us be more understanding as well. Do not see ourselves as always knowledgeable or entitled solely due to our age. We should continue to learn and earn our respect by pulling our own weight.

Whatever our age, we have our aces and spaces. We constantly hear the young calling us old-fashioned and rigid; we also hear the old lamenting on the young’s lack of respect and tenacity.

We should start our workdays with mutual respect for one another, choosing to view each other positively, leveraging our respective strengths and overlooking our weaknesses.

Like Japan, our population is ageing rapidly. As of 2015, 459,700 of those in our city are above the age of 65. And the demographic challenge is compounded by a low fertility rate of 1.24 in 2015. We need more people to stay in the workforce, and continuous employment for seniors is an obvious solution.

We’re a long way from Japan’s bold experiment, where workers such as 71-year-old Kenji Sato, or weekend shift workers all in their 60s at Kato Manufacturing, are producing critical components for self-defence sea vessels and airliners.

But we should start somewhere, and soon. As our young nation ages, let us all work towards making her age graciously. Like fine wine, the silver generation is to be cherished, embraced and welcomed back to the workforce. By opposing ageism, we can make life easier for all by co-creating a kinder and more gracious environment for all to work in.

William Wan (Dr)
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in TODAY – September 2, 2016

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