Retirement Redefined

Retirement Redefined

The elderly are living longer and many are actively seeking work after retirement. There’s hope in the air and a spring in their step. Revathi Siva Kumar wonders if this is the new old age

This is retirement 2.0

Rema Ramchandran is 67 years young and three years old at her workplace. “Life begins at 60. I feel vastly more productive now,” she avers as she manoeuvres another choking road in the glaring lights of a Bengaluru evening.

Having retired from the Standard Chartered Bank at 58, she is now straddling a media firm and a start-up. “There’s a lot of life left in me,” she smiles, hitching up her sari to traverse another long flight of stairs.

Meanwhile, Manoj Chakravarti, Chief Managing Officer of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, is told by his daughter to “just shut up and dance” (with her).

Her father does not mind and is rather proud of the brusque instruction. Narrating this incident at a recent conference on ‘Generational Diversity and Inclusion’ organised by the Silver Surfers’ Club for Seniors, he said he happened to ask his daughter what he should do to reach out to her generation. “She told me to ‘operate in her language’ and I am doing precisely that.”

Shelf statistic?

Welcome to the new old age. Suddenly, all the previously-held notions about ageing seem to be rapidly changing. Diverse generations are rubbing shoulders with each other and no one is quite sure about who is younger or why. Ironically, in this age of right-wing politics, as races and communities become more insular, simultaneously, there is a push for more inclusion. “Being age-inclusive is the new dynamic,” explains Dipti Varma Narain, who is in her 30s, but thought it would be a good idea to start The Silver Surfers, which she explains, is a generationally diverse organisation, with the age of members ranging from 20 to 70 years. “We see age as an asset and retirement as redundant. If we need to grow as a country, it is important to exchange ideas with others, isn’t it?”

Still, ageism in the ancient-young India of today is a miasma that lies like a pall over everything, including religion, culture, history, social life and the corporate world.

Today, even if seniors are able and strong, many are told to get ready to become another shelf statistic or forest relic and retire at least formally.

It is visibly discriminatory in not only government jobs, but also in the labour market, service classes, entertainment, fashion, travel, tourism, healthcare, insurance, sports, hospitality and almost every other profession.

Still a long way to go 

The odds have always favoured the younger, ‘smarter’ employees. The demographics themselves, for instance, prefer the bulge generation. UN reports show that 50 per cent of India is less than 25, while 65 per cent is less than 35 and Indians are younger than the citizens of China, Brazil, Russia and the US.

A ‘young’ population is viewed to be an asset. UN reports as well as published economic surveys also reveal that one person turns 65 after every seven seconds. But so far, the over-65s are only around eight per cent of the total Indian population and by 2050, the figure is expected to jump to 18-20 per cent. That would constitute 425 million seniors in the nation, says Dipti Varma Narain.

Re-purpose life skills

Dr Ajit Bhide, psychiatrist, says while perspectives are changing, we have a long way to go. There are still suicidal retirees steeped in depression. With increasing longevity, there seems to be more cases of depressed people coming for counselling, he says. “Many people have not factored economics or age into their retirement plans,” he reflects. “After retirement, many people at home would be asked by their spouses, as to why they were at home, doing nothing! It is very important that after you retire, you figure out how to keep your resources and wits in place.”

Getting old-young is also all about a novel outlook. “Retirement is all about acquiring wisdom later in life, revisiting previous crises and renewing psycho-social accomplishments. It helps if the ageing adults re-purpose their life skills, and re-apply wisdom to new areas,” says Anita Belagodu, a petite mother-in-law whose buzzword is churning and reinvention.

There does seem to be an understanding that innovation is the result of collaboration. “It does not help to take only one type of workforce,” says Ritu, who works at the HR section of a company. “All innovation stems from collaboration. It makes greater sense certainly to have a multi-generational workforce.”

Annice Joseph, the Global Lead hiring cross-generational talent in the multinational SAP Labs, explains that unleashing talent is about merging various generations. “If you have multiple age groups working together, then the possibility of their exceeding expectations is going to be more than 75 per cent,” she says. Whereas, if you have people of smaller age-groups, the possibility of their exceeding expectations comes down to only 35 per cent. 

Meanwhile, as Bengaluru grows as a start-up, an entirely new conversation is taking place between people of different generations, says Bala Rajaballa, President of Techstars India. “It’s crucial to develop a beginner’s mindset every time,” he explains. 

People cannot work in silos but need to continuously reach out to each other, he adds. “This is the perfect, golden era, where you can be meaningful and relevant to your surroundings and social fabric, no matter what your age is. And moreover, this is also the perfect city to do so,” he concludes. 

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