Productive Ageing at a societal level is measured by participation in the economy and often referenced as a broad statistic. But what does productive ageing look like for each individual? With diminishing public funding for aged welfare compounded with an ageing population and uncertainty of the future, there is need for a greater shift to personally productive and funded longer lives. If productive ageing is more reliant on individuals taking responsibility for their own productive ageing, what is needed to create this as an aspiration and long term view. Each individual’s situation is unique and comprised of elements at an economic and personal level that facilitate or hinder their ability to feel in control, productive, valuable and contributing to their community.
Within an individuals control, these elements fall largely under four categories; career and work in all its forms, financial security, health & wellbeing and importantly connection and contribution to their community where community can be defined by family, colleagues, sporting clubs or social groups. Individuals are capable of making drastic changes to their personal circumstances often as a result of a trigger event but more often than not, their circumstances are a culmination of small decisions and events over many years and then acceptance of the hand they’re dealt. People refer to being lucky in life or possibly is luck when good plans, opportunity and adaptability collide.
Adaptability will be an important skill to remain productive through the economic and technology changes in the years ahead. Adaptability allows an individual to recognise their valuable skills and experience while at the same time recognising how their skills and experience can remain relevant and develop in a new context. One example of this is the growth of the social science of futurology, which has become recognised within the mainstream market as a speciality. Entry into this field has been possible for individuals with unconventional thinking, trend analysis, cross cultural knowledge and communication skills as they recognised their transferable skills and embraced a new commercial opportunity.
What can other skilled individuals do to ensure productivity beyond 45, 50, 60 or even 70? What if there were information, advice and structured programs within organisations, insurances and community services to facilitate the individual’s ability to build a foundation and plant seeds for their lives of the future? Could a greater proportion of society experience productive ageing? Whether someone is aspiring to their life in two years, ten or fifteen, what does each individual need to focus on and what foundations are required to create their ‘luck’?
Many individuals may struggle to find role models for productive ageing, making it more difficult to recognise it’s possibilities? While ‘ageing’ is often viewed as a negative, individuals may shy away from embracing the changes of aging, and possibly avoid the deliberate actions required to experience productive ageing. If we were as effective at marketing the remarkable phases of ageing as we are at marketing youth culture, we may go some way towards shifting the negative perception of ageing. If we were able to celebrate individuals experiencing productive ageing, could we inspire others to follow in their footsteps and in turn create role models for following generations?
If we could make ageing a positive aspiration, how would we create the mindset to ‘play the long game’ required to reap the benefits? In a society of instant gratification, does the pendulum need to swing back to find balance between embracing the here and now while being mindful of the culmination of our decisions? Is it possible to make long term planning a positive aspiration through embedded rewards and incentive initiatives as recognition for planning a productive future? Could the incentives be structured into superannuation, health and life insurances or lifelong education?
Societal change can be encouraged through the levers of policy and infrastructure, though long lasting change is created by individuals with a changed mindset and their ripple effect throughout the community. How do we inspire our population to aspire to their own productive ageing?
as published on Open Forum