All developed countries are experiencing population ageing as people live longer, and birth rates remain low. Most people can now expect to live nearly 20 years after retirement, many of them in relatively good health. This poses major challenges for individuals and communities. “Retirement” no longer means a short holiday before illness and death. What do older people expect from the new “retirement”, and what can society expect from them? How can countries manage when a much larger economically inactive population is supported by a smaller workforce? How do we ensure equity between generations, especially when the old vote more than the young?
I have been interested in these issues since the late 1990s, and in 2003 I founded the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce at the University of Surrey. Its mission was to research the implications of an ageing society for employment, from the perspectives of the individual, employers and the broader economy. This has remained a major theme of my work ever since.
My main work in this area has been through three initiatives:
- Centre for Research into the Older Workforce (CROW) which I founded in 2003 at the University of Surrey. It later moved to the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, and is now led from Newcastle University by Dr Matt Flynn. Its work and history is described further here
- National Older Learners Group has been convened by NIACE, with Government support, since 2008. It brings together the national agencies with an interest in older people and learning, to share ideas and expertise. It has a membership of around 25 organisations, and meets three times a year. It has produced three policy papers, and overseen two surveys of older people’s learning. I have been its Secretary since its foundation.
- More years: Better Lives – The European Joint Programming Initiative on Demographic Change (“More years:better lives”) is a collaborative programme between 14 countries (including Canada) to coordinate their research into the implications of demographic change. As Vice-chair of their Scientific Advisory Board, I was principal editor of their Strategic Research Agenda. You can find the agenda at JPI MYBL Strategic Research Agenda. Since July 2015 I have been Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board.
A further issue is the notion of a Universal Basic Income, which is being discussed as a means of addressing a range of social and economic issues, including the increasing blurring of the boundaries between paid and unpaid work and the expansion of the “third age”.
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