At the peak of our maturity and experience...

Thoughts, ideas and suggestions for an active life and a fertile, inquisitive mind.

Welcome to Life in the Afternoon, an online Piazza of sorts - a virtual 'square' where people can congregate and share ideas.

Pictured: A.M. with a Negroni in Florence on a spring afternoon.
Pictured: Andy with a Negroni in Florence on a spring afternoon.
My latest instalment of

The Way I See It

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Good Afternoon.

The Incalculable value of Experience and Maturity

Many years ago when our business was in its infancy, the Canadian Federal Government introduced a new business program called CASE (Counselling Assistance for Small Enterprise), and it was a masterstroke.  The aim was to take advantage of the unlimited knowledge and  experience of the many business people at all levels,  who had recently retired or who were on the verge of it—to help small and startup businesses for a modest consulting fee.

Thousands of businesses and retirees jumped in, as we did.  We were introduced to Bill McAteer who was the recent exec VP and store manager of the flagship Simpson’s department store, the largest department store location in Canada, and to Shinichi Funasaka, the recently retired president of Toyota Canada. Both gentlemen were about 35 yrs our senior. Both were to be paid minimum wage. Imagine! We became close friends with both Bill and Shinichi and what we learned from them was invaluable. Bill gave us a pseudo PhD in department store operations and Shinichi gave us his guidance in importing/exporting, manufacturing, and in general business strategy.

Along the way, I travelled with Shinichi twice to Japan where he introduced me to any number of his close business associates (with a surprise post game visit to the locker room of the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, whose owner was also Shinichi's friend). Bill took us into the world of senior department store retailing. Bill and Shinichi were looking to contribute, to keep intellectually active, and to be of value.  This brilliant program understood and made use of the latent knowledge that existed in people like Bill and Shinichi and created a way to capitalize on it for everyone’s benefit.

This knowledge is out there, perhaps to a much greater degree than ever before, as a record number of people approach retirement.

There are, according the most recent Canadian and US census, 7-8 million Canadians and 75-80 million Americans entering retirement age in the coming few years.  Of these, although there is no substantiated data, arguably, about 65% would be healthy, and would not have developed disabilities or illnesses that would prevent them from continuing to work. There is no group that can provide the experience, capability, and value, that this group can deliver. The power of that knowledge  cannot be measured. Yet, the natural order of things has always been to step aside, stop working, stop contributing, slow down and wind down.

However, it is my contention that in today’s world, the idea of connecting retirement age to a person’s chronological age, is simply wrong.

Retirement should be optional.

For many who are self-employed, it is. For those who are not, there need to be solutions.

Will people of retirement age who continue to work rob jobs and opportunities that should be afforded to younger people? Unlike our consultant friends above, many people of retirement age not only want to continue to work and be productive- many NEED to work for financial reasons, as longer lifespans require continued income.

As the world moves forward, it pivots and adapts as necessary. Many “boomers” have found niches to appeal to their own group and have created businesses to serve them. Others continue to contribute at workplaces that have employed them for years, where organizations have found valuable and on-going roles that allow their knowledge and experience to transition to younger workers in a succession plan. Without a doubt, the “boomer brain drain” will be a blow to productivity and profits to many businesses, and so, one has to consider the value of a person who was recently retired or who had retirement forced upon them.

People like to work with people of their own generation, yet throughout our own business careers, even in our younger years in our 20's and 30's, we jumped at the chance to employ a recent retiree. They usually became the most valuable people in the organization.

Our prolonged healthspan, even more importantly than our prolonged lifespan, is sure to create dramatic changes in how our workplaces look in coming years.

- Andy


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