Inspiring Trend 4 August Aug 2017 1100 4 August 2017

“Active aging” the young elderly, we cannot do without

The workforce is ageing, but seniors are more than just seniors now. And ageing is not the same as before. Much depends on companies.

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By 2030, there will be 3.5 million more people aged over 65 in Italy. A new region as big as Tuscany could be populated by seniors only. Or better, by “young seniors”, the definition used by the team of sociologists, demographic researchers, and psychologists from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, to define the age group of people between 65 and 74 years old, which includes those people who are no longer young, but neither are they very old. They are the focal points of so-called active ageing. Or rather: ageing that keeps people active. If older people are no longer just older people, even ageing will never be the same again.

“By 2020, there will be two people over 65 for every child under 15”, explained Alessandro Rosina, demographic researcher from Università Cattolica. But, “the threshold where people people enter the category of “seniors” and leave the “adult” category has moved forward”. Only after the age of 75 do people enter that part of their lives where they begin to become dependant on someone else. Before then, there is a middle ground in which there are many different jobs, linked to family, volunteer organisations and also regular work. Many young seniors (83.3%) are retired, but some are still part of the workforce. The choice to continue working, despite retirement, is not only linked to a financial need. Often, it depends on the person’s awareness that work productivity helps improve ageing.

And that's not all. With increasing lifespans and later retirements, we are also seeing a profound increase in age of the workforce. The age range in which there is growth in employment in recent years, due to the effects of ageing on the population and the Fornero pension reform, happens to be the over 50 category.

It is a challenge for companies to plan new actions to favour the active ageing of senior employees, guaranteeing the right collocation for them in the organisation.

One cannot think to do the same job throughout his or her life, nor to remain immobile in the same position. Continuous training is necessary to keep up with the times, mainly with regard to technological innovation. With active involvement from the employees, as well. A solution could be to use what is called reverse mentoring, an exchange of knowledge between junior and senior employees. We also need to stimulate the personal health and motivation, and think about greater flexibility in the work schedule.

There are positive situations in which senior employees have been used by companies as mentors for younger employees, cases of coaching exchanges between the over 50 group and the under 35 group, forms of job sharing (that is, two or more employees sharing the same shift), continuous training programs and the creation of corporate universities, alternative career plans, health benefits for screenings and prevention, and new possibilities for improving the work-life balance.

If companies cannot do without young employees, the same is true for older employees. They are so important that many are called back to the company for their experience in the field. They come as mentors, but they also “get their hands dirty”. The latest case is that of Fincantieri, in Porto Marghera, which found itself facing a peak of work for the construction of large cruise ships. They called back a group of expert labourers who had already retired. It’s true: we cannot do without “young seniors”.