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The 100-year life – are you ready?

For the western world the age of longevity is dawning.  The 100-year life is becoming a reality.  Many of us will live a lot longer than our grandparents.  According to latest predictions a child born in the west today has more than a 50% chance of living to be over 105.  Whether the idea fills you with joy, horror or an uneasy but excited mix of both, the simple fact is that the world is changing – and we must change with it.

Taking a look at the potential impact such longevity could have on the way we live and work, and crucially, what on earth we might need to do to prepare ourselves for it, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s brilliant book “The 100 year life” dissects the opportunities and challenges and offers thought-provoking insight and observations as well as pointers on areas we all might want to consider whether as individuals, employers, policy makers or health and pension providers.  In short, it is relevant for each and every one of us and we’re delighted to have Andrew Scott joining us for what promises to be a fascinating interactive discussion at Wellcome Collection in London on 18th April – more of that later.

On reading the 100-year life I can honestly say I felt inspired, excited, slightly nervous, energised, uncertain and more aware than ever before of the need to really stop and think what this longer life really does mean for both myself and for our business.  Like many, I’ve long been aware that my life is likely to be longer than the 75 and 82 years my parents enjoyed.  But what I haven’t really got to grips with entirely is that it is also likely to see me doing things that I have only loosely planned for.  What an opportunity.  What a challenge.  What do I need to do?!

To benefit from this longevity, Gratton and Scott contend that if we get it right a longer life will be a real gift, but to ignore the reality and fail to prepare for it will be a curse.  And on reading their book that makes complete sense.

Brilliantly engaging, the 100-year life is a page-turner for Baby Boomers, Boomers II, gen-X, -Y and -Z alike.  Whether an employer considering the challenges of an ageing workforce, a mid-lifer considering future options’, a newcomer to the world of work, a family carer, a policy maker, healthcare or pension provider, or anyone anywhere in-between, it’s a book for everyone and about everyone.  And that’s hugely clever.

Despite the multiple gloomy headlines forecasting that longer life may be fraught with the challenge of living with chronic conditions, the reality is that we are not all assigned to an older age of ill-health.  While some of us will indeed live longer but without the benefit of good health, many others will continue to be active, engaged and in need of gainful employment either for financial, personal fulfilment or companionship need.  Think Fit at Fifty, Strong at Sixty, Sprightly at Seventy, Agile at Eighty … it’s not just possible, but increasingly likely.

The strange thing is that this ‘longer life’ has been creeping up on us for years and yet it’s not really ‘landed’ in our collective consciousness as requiring a fundamental change in thinking and doing.  We’re all aware of living longer, but 100 years – really?  Well, it turns out that ‘yes, really’ is the answer and that means, in simple terms, that we’re in danger of sleep walking into older-longer living, but without the necessary changes in attitudes, plans or support structures either at home or at work to address the issues it brings.

There’s no doubt that the implications of the 100-year life are significant – both personally and professionally.  The traditional pattern of work will change.  We are likely to either need or want to navigate and embrace multiple career paths, learn new skills not just at a young age but at more advanced years, consider new patterns of working and crucially undertake more robust financial planning as quite clearly the impact on pension funds and state funding of an older population will be significant.

Quite simply the book challenges us all to start thinking about the decisions we will need to take if we are to make the most of this longer life.  From the companies we work for to the society in which we live, our futures are all about to change.

Unsurprisingly, the book asserts that maximising the gift of longer life requires both fundamental societal change and a good dose of personal planning.  The authors point out that the role models and social institutions of the past will not serve well if stretched over longer lives and that innovation and experimentation is crucial for this gift of life to a be a gift to be enjoyed, valued and recognised as adding real value rather than being feared as a resource drain on society and dreaded as a financial and personal challenge by our ageing populations.

There is no doubt that employers will need to more actively consider and plan for how they can both support and benefit from the 100-year life.  The value of older workers is now widely recognised – although not always widely embraced.  This will have to change.  Society, employers and co-workers all need to firmly put ageism to one side and understand the true value that a multi-generational workforce can bring.  An active diversity policy will help.  While few would dispute that the multiple skills and experience of older workers are of distinct business benefit, the reality is that older workers seeking new roles often find it hard to find positions when up against younger talent.  What a shame.  And what a waste.  Age is just a number after all.   Each employer must of course recruit based on specific needs, all that is being urged is that we all keep an open mind when it comes to age and how we might maximise this great resource that is becoming greater.

When it comes to truly ‘older’ workers, a more flexible approach to resource management could be one route – think job-share for older workers perhaps.  Retraining support for workers undertaking their third or fourth career maybe, not to mention supporting existing staff as they grapple with future planning.  Should employers be offering greater financial planning support alongside pension provision to help employees plan more effectively?  Are employers actively reviewing and developing benefits aligned to older workers?  What can employers do to encourage active-ageing and which recognises older worker’s needs in the workplace?

Of course, it’s not just for employers to review their thinking and planning.  Through each of the 100-year life’s chapters, a simple fact is continually replayed – we all need to actively think about our individual future and sketch and plan a pathway that works for us.  Whether considering our future at work or at play, we must all take responsibility for planning ahead if we are to make the most of our longer lives.  Unsurprisingly, no one magic bullet or simple guide is offered – more multiple thoughts and ideas to inspire and direct our thinking.

Most important of all, the book brings with it an implicit plea to us all to open our minds to what living longer might mean and how can we all benefit from this great gift rather than squander it.  Better advice I could not give or ask for.  Thank you to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott for giving us a wake-up call.  I for one am now wide awake.

We are delighted that co-author of “The 100-year life”, Andrew Scott will be joining us for what promises to be a hugely insightful and inspirational discussion on 19th June 2018 at Wellcome Collection, 83 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE.

If you would be interested to join us for the event or to find out more – please get in contact


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