I was born in 1949, which landed me squarely in the Baby Boom generation. Having celebrated my sixtieth birthday in June, I find my mind has been turning to some of the challenges that will be posed by the ageing (or, in the USA, aging) of my generation around the world. That this line of thought chimes in with the zeitgeist is underscored by an editorial in today’s Financial Times, which considers how the baby boomers will change the ageing equation.
The implications for employers range from a loss of talent as growing numbers of boomers retire, through the likelihood that many boomers will want to stay on in employment – though there is likely to be a growing interest in part-time rather than full-time work. In addition to a greater need for employer flexibility, there will be an increasing need for a focus on wellness at work, with employers expected to help older employees tackle short-term illness before it becomes long term.
I have long argued that if people want to understand what sustainability means in practice, they should look at the future strains likely to be imposed on public health care and pension systems as the ageing trend accelerates across the developed world. The intergenerational dimensions are likely to be pretty taxing. Among the questions that I find interesting: (1) How will the ageing trend impact societal thinking around sustainability issues? (2) How will it impact the appetite for the sort of risk, innovation and entrepreneurship that is needed to jump our economies and societies to more sustainable states? (3) How can we best tap the skills of the growing number of retirees and semi-retired people to support social and environmental entrepreneurship? (4) How will the ageing trend impact politics, lobbying and, over time, the prevailing paradigm that frames how we think about ourselves, others and the wider world? And (5), practically, as the first Green generation goes grey (or, in the USA, gray), how can we green the greys/grays?
To jump-start our thinking, Volans hosted a couple of working sessions last year, working closely with Professor David Grayson and Dr David Metz, with further sessions planned for 2010. As our thinking and work evolves this year, we will begin to post a growing number of blogs on related issues. For the moment, however, this is by way of an invitation to readers to get in touch and help cross-connect us to other thinking and work in this and related fields. The simplest way to do this is to email me at email@example.com.