Why we need to start rethinking retirement

What can we do to make later life as fulfilling as possible for all of us? Join Rachel Riley and experts as they discuss why we need to start rethinking retirement

This week’s Power of Us podcast is hosted by mathematician and presenter Rachel Riley and features a panel of experts comprising Age UK phone volunteer Zoe Adams, Claire Turner, director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, and Eugene Marchese, founder and director of innovation and design at Guild Living.

At best, our older citizens face a “benign indifference”, says Claire Turner. Just consider the ageism directed at presidential candidate Joe Biden, who’s been described as “too old to hack it”. In the UK, one in three older people has encountered age prejudice of some sort.

But there is a better way of being, say our panellists. Anyone, no matter their age, seeks meaning and purpose – and we all want to be seen, says Zoe Adams, who talks about her experience with her Age UK “buddy”, Alan. There’s a need too for the wealth of knowledge and experience that is held by older generations.  

“The notion that you hit 60 and retire is so antiquated,” says Eugene Marchese. Many continue working into their 60s and beyond. There’s no word for retirement in Japanese, he adds: “They use the word ‘ikigai’. That means having a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning.” From former chief executives to chefs or gardeners – all have experience that would help businesses today. “Imagine if we tapped into that knowledge base,” he says.

There’s friendship too, says Zoe Adams, which can cut across generations. All individuals have fascinating pasts, and “it’s our job as a society to understand there’s a richness of history that will be lost for ever if we don’t extract it”, says Eugene Marchese.

But the pandemic and fear of new technology have left many people isolated. In today’s fast world, no one has any time, says Eugene. “It’s the reason why loneliness is burning through our older generation. This is not something that will all go away with a vaccine.”

Talking more openly about what lies ahead is one way to change and champion ageing, says Turner, and demystify the future – so everyone can plan for it. “I would love to go up to every senior citizen,” says Zoe, “and just tell them they are seen, and they are valuable.”

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