Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

The New Centurions

I have recently read a thought-provoking book written by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, both professors at the London School of Business, entitled The 100 -Year Life.

Based on the fact that throughout the world people’s life spans are increasing, Gratton and Scott explain that all of us, whatever our age now, should be aware of the challenges we will face as a result of our increasing longevity. They argue that we need to make intelligent choices to ensure we look on this greater life expectancy as a gift – considering it an opportunity rather than a curse.

In the last century, it was considered normal in Sri Lanka for people to retire at the age of 55 and then rely on being supported by their government pension, their provident fund and/or their children before dying “of old age” within the next decade. For most workers the standard age of retirement was (and still is) 55 years and if one wanted to work longer, one had to apply for an annual extension.

These days, most folk in our country who retire in good health at the age of 55 can expect to live at least another twenty years. In the richer nations, it has been estimated that a child born today has a 50% chance of living to be over a hundred! Japan for example in 1971 had only 339 people over a hundred years of age while in 2017 the country counted no less than 67,824 centenarians!

But it is not just more “Hundred Year Lifers” for which society will have to prepare itself. The proportion of the population over 65 (the traditional cut-off point for “old age”) is increasing. Those of us currently in the early stages of our professional and business careers can realistically expect to live longer than our parents did – and so, as societies as well as individuals, we need to change our age-old views of old age.

While workers when young may look forward to the day they can retire – when they believe they will not have to face the daily grind of getting up early, commuting to work, working all day at the same old desk and facing a long commute back home – statistics show that many people approaching retirement say they would prefer to work until they get to 70 or 75. They don’t want to necessarily work full time at the same job – but perhaps part time in a different job. Continuing to work not only provides the social benefit of meeting and mixing with colleagues but it gives one a feeling of being useful – and equally important, it allows one to earn some income.

To make use of the opportunity of utilising the skills and experience acquired during our “under 55” working lives, we will need to maintain good health (especially vision, hearing, memory and physical fitness) and we will usually need to re-train. Gratton and Scott argue that a drastic expansion of adult education and training is required so that workers can combine the experience and problem-solving skills of their previous working lives with new knowledge and skills in other fields. Far from being a threat and blocking the promotions of younger workers they can become trainers and mentors to juniors in their original workplace. On the other hand an available and teachable workforce of older persons can be trained to move into other fields of private enterprise.

People in this 21st century will continue productively much later into their lives.

We ourselves will need while still young to actively preserve good health, continue to learn new skills and invest for a longer stay on earth.

This article appears in the November 2018 edition of Lanka Monthly Digest. For more articles like this on various health topics, please have a look at my e-book Men’s Health Matters available from Amazon for only US $2.90

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2018 by in Uncategorized.
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