When age matters

Ageism in the workforce continues to be a major obstacle for many Singaporeans. Older workers are typically perceived to be slower, less productive and more resistant to change than their younger counterparts.

In an effort to reduce discrimination in the workplace, government leaders have recently promoted the idea of an “ageless” or “age-blind” Singapore, where employers will hire based on an applicant’s skills and experience rather than his or her age.

This is an appropriate response to the problem of workplace ageism. It is expected that by 2030, almost one in four residents in Singapore could be aged 65 or older. This trend is already underway in other industrialised nations such as Japan and Germany.

We will have to make the most of our labour capacity in order to continue thriving economically. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) has been calling on employers to see the value in mature workers, in preparation for an older workforce.

In our efforts to prevent discrimination, however, we must be careful not to completely disregard age. Doing so has its risks.

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A flexible retirement

The concept of retirement is changing rapidly. “As people live longer and in good health, retirement is becoming a more active life stage, with more people looking for the opportunity to combine work and leisure. Many workers have retired the notion of fully retiring at age 60 or 65,” said Catherine Collinson, executive director of the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement (ACLR) and president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS).

ACLR in collaboration with TCRS recently released a new report titled “The New Flexible Retirement” (left), which illustrates that today’s workers are expecting to transition into retirement, however, they face a significant obstacle – few employers have employment practices to support them. The report is based on research from the Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2015, which comprises 16,000 workers and retirees and presents global trends and profiles of 15 countries including Asia.

Globally, the survey found that 51 percent of all workers now expect to retire at age 65 or later, or not at all. The mindset of working beyond traditional retirement age varies around the world; in Japan, 43 percent of survey respondents aspire to continue working past retirement compared to only 15 percent in France.

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A “challenging ageing” – one of this year’s top consumer trends

Euromonitor International has released a white paper (left) that examines this year’s top consumer trends. Besides greener food, over-connected consumers and spending singles, the paper highlighted another trend being the “challenging ageing”. Its author Daphne Kasriel-Alexander, shared that “mature consumers are a huge market”, with the global population aged 65+ forecasted to grow to 626 million in 2016 out of a total global population of 7.3 billion. She added that though the spending power may vary in this demographic, these consumers “remain a key and growing consumer segment”.

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Seniors’ tech adoption rate shows highest percentage increase

Computer users by age group – the highest increase in the last three years reported for seniors aged 50 years and above.

Have you noticed that more seniors around us are using a smartphone, computer or accessing the Internet? This is an observation made by IDA’s Annual Survey on Infocomm Usage in Households 2014 (Survey). The Survey showed that in 2014, about 74 percent of Singapore residents used the computer in the last three months, with highest increase in the last three years reported for seniors aged 50 years and above.

Between 2012 and 2014, there was a significant increase of 14 and 11 percentage-points in computer usage by seniors aged 50 to 59 and 60 & above respectively. This brought the total percentage of computer usage among seniors to 63 percent for those aged 50 to 59 years and 27 percent for those aged 60 years & above respectively in 2014.

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“Behind the silver surge”

Radha Basu, senior journalist.

Plenary speaker at the Singapore Patient Conference in October 2015 at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), Singapore, was senior journalist Radha Basu, who writes on ageing, migration and social issues. She shared that living longer can also mean living alone – in year 2000, there were only 15,000 elderly who lived alone. By 2010, there were 35,000 and the figure “will exceed 80,000 in less than two decades”.

She also shared about the rise of the “old-old”. Currently, there are 41,000 persons aged 85 years and above, up from 14,000 in 2005. Other demographics Basu shared included the number of elderly with mobility problems, like those who use a wheelchair. The number doubled to 36,000 between 2000 and 2010, she shared.

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