Forced retirement is an outdated idea. It belongs in the past with movie rental stores, screeching dial-up Internet and unwieldy roadmaps that never quite fold back into shape. We live in different times, and workplaces must adapt to generations that are living longer, smarter and more productively. Forcing men and women to retire at a certain age is not only unfair, but shortsighted. Today, people have so much more value to offer businesses, society and themselves long after their mid-sixties.
Many workplace cultures and employment guidelines have not kept pace with developments in technology, automation and evolutions in human development. People live and age very differently today than they did not too long ago.
For a little perspective, consider the following life expectancy statistics for the year 1965 in the following countries:
Now, let’s look at those same countries in 2016:
These numbers are staggering. In a mere 51 years, across growth economies and the world, the human race has dramatically increased its collective life expectancy, which is transforming everything about what it means to be a person—including how we work, raise our families and determine exactly what a job means to our lives. For employees 65 years old or older, the future is bright as technology and automation continue to accommodate the needs, skills and talents of aging employees.
For decades, traditional employees have followed regimented work schedules that demand they show up to work in the morning and leave later that day, or even that evening. Then, when an employee reaches the age of 65 (or the determined retirement age of their respective country), that regimen suddenly stops, and they are forced into a life of retirement—the logic being that people over a certain age can no longer function at peak capacity; besides, nobody wants to spend the later years in life working. Times have changed. For many professionals, work is not only a job, but a way to connect with others, demonstrate value to society and keep one’s mental and intellectual faculties sharp, engaged and growing.
Automation, fortunately, is disrupting the retirement dynamic. Advanced technologies and human capital management software are allowing companies to hire, schedule and pay retired workers in new ways that suit their lifestyles. Many companies are leveraging the value of older workers by employing them in more limited capacities as mentors, teachers and role models to younger employees. Instead of being unwillingly mandated into retirement, older workers can be part of flexible workforces comprised of semi-retired employees. Employers also benefit because they no longer have the binary choice of keeping an aging worker on as a full-time employee or losing them completely to retirement. This allows employers to maintain access to the incredible institutional knowledge and value older workers possess, while also enabling older workers to remain engaged with their professional responsibilities and colleagues.
Careers are a lifetime investment. For too long, obsolete workplace policies have unfairly severed hardworking professionals from the joys and rewards of their livelihoods. Not only is automation helping to keep aging employees connected to their careers, but it is also opening up opportunities for older workers to prepare younger employees for change. If human life expectancy can evolve so significantly in 51 years—not even a lifetime for most—then those who witnessed that change, and who were part of that lifetime, have the invaluable experience and wisdom that comes with age. Automation will continue to transform the way human beings work, but it will never make knowledge, talent and experience irrelevant. Though the future of work may see fewer repetitive jobs and low-level skills, it will always require the perspective, insights and guidance from those who have come before. In the future, turning 65 years old will be a reason to celebrate one’s career, and not say goodbye to it.