The population of developed countries has undergone a fundamental change in their age structure, with many people living longer lives. It is believed that longer life span of humans can lead to many thorny problems to individuals and society; however, measures can be taken to mitigate these potential consequences.
As the populations of developed countries are ageing, they are facing several challenges. The major problem is the appearance of the intergenerational gap in the workplace in terms of attitudes, age-related conditions, and technological skills. Older employees have experienced outdated stereotypes, unconscious bias, and even age discrimination. According to a 2015 Eurobarometer report (Future of ageing population), 42% of people regard age discrimination towards those over 55 as ‘’widespread’’, which can prevent them from staying in or returning to work. Physical changes including deterioration of visual acuity, hearing loss, decline in respiratory, cardiovascular functions, and reduced muscle also affects the employment and effectiveness of an ageing workforce. It was found that almost half of people aged between and the SPA have at least one long- term health condition that hinders individuals’ ability to work. For instance, those exposed to chronic stress over extended periods of time through their job may suffer some forms of cognitive deficit, therefore being less likely to work long shifts. In addition, the world has witnessed significant shifts in the labor market, the main driver of changes will be advances in technology, such as automation, machine learning, big data, the internet of things and the digital economy. As a result, how people work and where they work become fully automated, which requires elderly workers to be equipped with technological skills. Meanwhile, there is a fact that those employees have fewer opportunities to be provided with essential skills. Another issue is that those in older age group are being considered a financial burden to a country. Since they cannot meet their work demands, these experienced staff is more likely to get retired without returning to work. Therefore, it puts pressure on the welfare state when budgets are stretched thin to support the greying population in terms of healthcare expenses and pension payments. Due to an increasing number of people with long term disability, chronic conditions and multiple health conditions, governments provide a certain amount of susidy to promote health facilities and distripute healthcare service to every senior citizens. A substantial amount of money withdrawn from companies aims to pay for retired staff whereas those companies are dealing with a labor shortage. The third matter including social isolation and loneliness directly affects older adults. Social isolation is associated with higher rates of emergency admissions, rehospitalisation and earlier entry into care home. Furthemore, the “ Future of an ageing population’’ report also indicates that there is a 50% reduction in likelihood of mortality for individuals with strong social relationships. In other words, those who interact less with the world suffer an elevated risk of mortality.
However, there are several steps that government as well as society can take to solve the problems described above. Firstly, an immediate action would be to redesign the temporary workplace and management practices so that working lives of older employees can be prolonged. For example, different design approaches, such as co-design and participatory design, have been successfully used to reduce physical and mental stress, helping adult workers be in good quality employment. Similarly, adapting advanced technology in remote access could allow greater home-working which in turn could address physical challenges and help the ageing population to balance the competing responsibilities that they are likely to have when working. Additionally, the provision of part-time or flexible-hours can suggest that being able to balance work and care successfully is important to increasing older adult labor market participation. Offering senior employees both offline and online courses which teach them financial, numerical and technological skills to meet demands for temporary changes constitutes an effective way to retain these experienced staff. If increasing retirement age for working adults is successful, the welfare bill can be partly reduced.
In addition to adaptations in the workplace, it is vital that governments should invest in innovating medical and assistive technologies such as home health monitoring tools or creating personalized and stratified medicine for ones with long-term health conditions. Some argue that this approach to the problem is very costly to make strides in technology; however, it can bring significant benefits to individuals, employers and wider society in the long run.
The last measure would require the cooperation of the whole society to provide more support for older people to feel more confident interacting with communities.