How should business respond to our ageing society?
That was the question I was asked to answer at the Future of Ageing conference this week. To do so, there’s another question to address first - why should business respond?
There is a strong commercial imperative; 3.5 million more older households by 2033 in England – a 60% increase on today.
By 2033, a third of all households will consist of over 65s. But these aren’t simply issues for future generations - as long ago as 2008 the proportion of households consisting of over 65s had already reached 28 per cent.
The over 50s hold 68.3% of all UK household wealth (£7.8 trillion). So they are a major consumer force.
However, as we showed in the Ready for Ageing Alliance report Busting the Boomer Myth, things aren’t that simple.
The baby boomer generation is far more diverse than often recognised. Some of the boomer generation have amassed significant wealth – but by no means all.
28 per cent of 55-64 year olds have no pension savings whatsoever. And, for many people, pension wealth is woefully short of what is needed to secure an adequate income in retirement.
Which means many more people will be in the workforce in later life. The businesses to thrive will be those which recognise the benefits that a diverse workforce brings.
As employers, it’s crucial that we support older people to contribute the most possible in the workforce. And they can contribute a great deal. According to research from the University of Manchester, older workers:
- Are as effective at work as younger workers.
- Take less short-term sickness and offset any reduction in speed with experience.
- Are less likely to leave an organisation.
- Are able to adapt to change and are more reliable and committed, and less aggressive and tardy.
- The businesses to benefit from this will be those that flex to meet the needs of their older workers, with age-friendly recruitment and employment practices. And a recognition that our ageing society is an opportunity not a threat.
Mario Ambrosi is Anchor’s Head of Communications & Public Affairs