AGEING & Space for an EXECUTIVE SERVICE.
Posted on October 7th, 2022

Sugath Kulatunga.(1)

Today we see a revolution in longevity. The percentage of old people in the total population is growing steadily. In this background, all over the world, increasing attention has been focused on old people. Ageing is being considered only as a factor of social differentiation and not one of social discrimination.  The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002- stated that , Whereas specific policies will vary according to country and region, population ageing is a universal force that has the power to shape the future as much as globalization. It is essential to recognize the ability of older persons to contribute to society by taking the lead not only in their own betterment but also in that of society as a whole. Forward thinking calls us to embrace the potential of the ageing population as a basis for future development.”

At Article 10 of the declaration of the Second World Assembly on Ageing it is stated that The potential of older persons is a powerful basis for future development. This enables society to rely increasingly on the skills, experience and wisdom of older persons, not only to take the lead in their own betterment but also to participate actively in that of society as a whole.”

Age is one of the characteristics of social differentiation. While being a biological fact, the perception of age is nevertheless socially constructed. The connotation of age is inescapable, regardless of cultural environment. Whereas in some regions of the world, older persons are treated with respect and are well-regarded, in other parts of the globe, societal value is given to youth and signs of age have a rather negative image. Isolation, exclusion and marginalization of older persons are the usual consequences of age discrimination, which not only undermines the status of older persons in society but also threatens overall societal development.

Challenges arise as social and economic structures try to adjust to the simultaneous phenomenon of diminishing young cohorts with rising older ones, and opportunities present themselves in the sheer number of older individuals and the vast resources societies stand to gain from their contribution.

Ageing of the population permeates all social, economic and cultural spheres. Revolutionary change calls for new, revolutionary thinking, which can position policy formulation and implementation on sounder footing. In our ageing world, new thinking requires that we view ageing as a lifelong and society-wide phenomenon, not a phenomenon exclusively pertaining to older persons.

Environments for growth, learning and moving toward creative fulfillment should be within the reach of all. What we are learning today about the extraordinary range of abilities and interests of older persons can help us in the task of creating such environments and remove obstacles for new environments for growth, learning and moving toward creative fulfillment should be within the reach of all. What we are learning today about the extraordinary range of abilities and interests of older persons can help us in the task of creating such environments.

If the ageing of populations is revolutionizing our social and economic infrastructure, globalization and technological advancement are revolutionizing our “tool” system – that is, management and workplace skills, creative synthesis, political and social development. One element of this system is information technology, which, in the last few decades alone, has transformed the speed and manner in which access to information is rendered and received. Older individuals are increasingly tapping into this culture in varying degrees, often in multigenerational settings, meeting the educational demands to stay informed of new technologies and systems. The majority of older persons, however, mostly in developing countries, do not have access. When whole communities are sidelined in this information tidal wave, existing gaps and imbalances become all the more apparent.

But knowledge and images are often mutual passengers in the information voyage and the image landscape conveyed by the western media weighs heavily on the side of glorifying youth, while either omitting older persons or depicting them in stereotypes. This has a particular impact on the lives of older women, as they tend to suffer greater political, social, and economic exclusion than do older men. 

The new architecture of ageing requires policies that remove obstacles and facilitate contributions. It also requires seminal thinking and images that reflect reality and potential, not stereotypes and myths. So relative are the experiences of ageing in different parts of the world, and so complex and multiple their roles, that the world can no longer accept images of ageing as a panorama of near homogeneity.

Old age policies were designed, for most of the 20th century, with a youthful society in mind. From this point onward, policies for older persons, younger persons and those in between, must be designed with an ageing society in mind, society where soon, every third individual will be over the age of 60. International, national and local communities must begin now to adjust and design their infrastructures, policies, plans and resources.

Policy interventions that include social and human, as well as economic investments, can prevent unnecessary dependencies from arising whether in late life for individuals or downstream in ageing societies. When judicious investments are made in advance, experts suggest that ageing can be changed from a drain on resources to build-up of humane social, economic and environmental capital. This requires investing in the phases of life, fostering enabling societies, and creating flexible but vibrant collaborations in the process, through which the future building of a society for all ages can take hold in the present.

Finally, recognition of the uniqueness that unfolds throughout one’s life is core to igniting society’s embrace of the contributions of its older citizens. The “package” of knowledge, wisdom and experience that so often comes with age is part of an inner awareness that cannot be traded, sold or stolen. It should, however, be activated, amplified and utilized in all the crossroads, fields and storefronts of society, and in the windows of our creative imaginations.

Many older people want to work, learn and earn but are encountering difficulties in doing so. Main barriers

include: actual or perceived age discrimination, especially by employers; lack of local retraining opportunities; employer reluctance to train older people; the cost of learning and retraining; and difficulties in finding support agencies with staff who have the experience and expertise to assist older age groups – including listening, empathizing, and providing the right forms of practical help.

Challenges arise as social and economic structures try to adjust to the simultaneous phenomenon of diminishing young cohorts with rising older ones, and opportunities present themselves in the sheer number of older individuals and the vast resources societies stand to gain from their contribution.

This ageing of the population permeates all social, economic and cultural spheres. Revolutionary change calls for new, revolutionary thinking, which can position policy formulation and implementation on sounder footing. In our ageing world, new thinking requires that we view ageing as a lifelong and society-wide phenomenon, not a phenomenon exclusively pertaining to older persons.

Environments for growth, learning and moving toward creative fulfillment should be within the reach of all. What we are learning today about the extraordinary range of abilities and interests of older persons can help us in the task of creating such environments and remove obstacles for new environments for growth, learning and moving toward creative fulfillment should be within the reach of all. What we are learning today about the extraordinary range of abilities and interests of older persons can help us in the task of creating such environments and remove

If the ageing of populations is revolutionizing our social and economic infrastructure, globalization and technological advancement are revolutionizing our “tool” system – that is, management and workplace skills, creative synthesis, political and social development. One element of this system is information technology, which, in the last five years alone, has transformed the speed and manner in which access to information is rendered and received. Older individuals are increasingly tapping into this culture in varying degrees, often in multigenerational settings, meeting the educational demands to stay informed of new technologies and systems. The majority of older persons, however, mostly in developing countries, do not have access. When whole communities are sidelined in this information tidal wave, existing gaps and imbalances become all the more apparent.

But knowledge and images are often mutual passengers in the information voyage and the image landscape conveyed by the western media weighs heavily on the side of glorifying youth, while either omitting older persons or depicting them in stereotypes. This has a particular impact on the lives of older women, as they tend to suffer greater political, social, and economic exclusion than do older men. 

The new architecture of ageing requires policies that remove obstacles and facilitate contributions. It also requires seminal thinking and images that reflect reality and potential, not stereotypes and myths. So relative are the experiences of ageing in different parts of the world, and so complex and multiple their roles, that the world can no longer accept images of ageing as a panorama of near homogeneity.

Old age policies were designed, for most of the 20th century, with a youthful society in mind. From this point onward, policies for older persons, younger persons and those in between, must be designed with an ageing society in mind, society where soon, every third individual will be over the age of 60. International, national and local communities must begin now to adjust and design their infrastructures, policies, plans and resources.

Policy interventions that include social and human, as well as economic investments, can prevent unnecessary dependencies from arising whether in late life for individuals or downstream in ageing societies. When judicious investments are made in advance, experts suggest that ageing can be changed from a drain on resources to build-up of humane social, economic and environmental capital. This requires investing in the phases of life, fostering enabling societies, and creating flexible but vibrant collaborations in the process, through which the future building of a society for all ages can take hold in the present.

Finally, recognition of the uniqueness that unfolds throughout one’s life is core to igniting society’s embrace of the contributions of its older citizens. The “package” of knowledge, wisdom and experience that so often comes with age is part of an inner awareness that cannot be traded, sold or stolen. It should, however, be activated, amplified and utilized in all the crossroads, fields and storefronts of society, and in the windows of our creative imaginations.

While there is growing international awareness of the important place of senior citizens in general, in modern society and their special needs, the distinctive role of senior citizens who have retired from executive positions in both the public sector and the private sector has been recognized by most modern societies and special associations of such groups have been formed today in many countries to harness their proven talents and cater to their particular needs.

Most retired persons wish to work, learn and continue to develop and utilize their abilities during their retirement  to the benefit of the community and themselves. Many enjoy working and work provides purpose, status, scope to use one’s skills and abilities, and the opportunity to express their values, interests and objectives, and to progress.

The information and communication technology has revolutionized the way, where and when of work. More and more people are able to work from home rather than face the hazards of commuting to work. In the future physical mobility will cease to be a vital factor of capacity to work. 

It should also be noted that the present retirement age has been determined when the life expectancy was in the region of 50 to 60 years. Today life expectancy has risen over 70 of age and at the present age of retirement of 60 years most persons are not only physically and mentally fit to continue working but also, they are at the peak level of competency. When the value of the pension paid on retirement is as high as 80% the continuation of these persons in service costs the government only 20% of the salary, which is very much lower than the salary of a new recruit.

EXECUTIVE SERVICE

In many developed countries executive service organizations make available the services of retired executives experienced in special fields even to foreign countries at a nominal cost to the recipient of the service.

It is accepted that in the context of Sri Lanka, particularly in the public sector, there is a wide generation gap in competence at the executive level. This has led to inefficiency and ineffectiveness in management. A good example is the very low utilization of donor assistance for development projects. Retired executives can fill this gap successfully.

There are numerous opportunities for external consultancy in both the public and the private sector. At present information on the opportunities and the available personnel is not well organized leading to misfits. It is proposed that a comprehensive data bank on retired executives is established to cater to the needs of both the employer and the consultants.

Most retired executives are not  intent on making a livelihood of service to the community. They are prepared to offer their services free of charge or at a nominal cost to  endeavors which serve the community at large. There are many such opportunities. If voluntary services are available potential for such endeavors are plentiful.

Retired executives are well equipped to act as mentors, mediators and advisers. Many retired executives would wish to offer such service in their preferred locations e.g. their native villages.

An organized pool of retired executives could be a strong force to tap during times of emergencies.

(1)This note comprises of extracts from a longer paper prepared for the civil society organization named Sri Lanka Association of Retired Executives Professionals and Academics

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