Sunday, 28 February 2010

Wanted: Portfolio workers over 50

Most of you will be aware that the other main project in which I am involved is the study of portfolio careers as an increasingly popular choice of career pattern or work style. We have had a great deal of positive publicity for this and recently in talking to a journalist in Leeds she was especially interested in talking with some people who are over 50 and have chosen to pursue a portfolio career.
This is a request to any reader who fits these 2 categories and would be happy to be interviewed by Tina Walsh who writes articles regularly for a range of national newspapers and magazines. If you live in Yorkshire that would be great but Tina would also be happy to interview you by phone. Just reply to me at

Thursday, 25 February 2010

'On your bikes' call to over 50s

OLDER Scarborough residents are being encouraged to get on their bikes after the launch of a new scheme.
Free one-to-one cycling training is being offered to motorists over the age of 50 in order to give them the skills and confidence to ditch their cars and cycle instead.

It is hoped the scheme, which has been set up by North Yorkshire County Council, will benefit the environment and ease congestion on Scarborough’s roads, and also improve the fitness of participants and save them money.

The course consists of up to four one-hour sessions and covers coping with a variety of roads and planning routes as well as some theory and traffic law.

The training is being funded from the Government Road Safety Grant, and the scheme was officially launched at Falsgrave Community Centre by Scarborough mayor Bill Chatt.

John Sheader, Scarborough Council’s road safety and travel awareness officer, said: “Most people have a bicycle in their garage or shed, and there are a number of reasons why people don’t use their bikes.

“We can’t do much about the weather, and we can’t do much about the hills, but we all know there are many good days when cycling can be a pleasure.

“Lots of people say they won’t ride a bike on today’s roads because of the traffic and we can do something about that by helping them to build up confidence to encourage people to ride on the roads safely.

“Cycling is good for your health, your pocket and your town, and for many journeys in urban areas it is a very practical means of transport.”

For more information or to sign up for a course contact John Sheader on (01723) 232454

What a great idea and we should encourage more local authorities to do something similar

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Divorce soars for the 50+'s

Divorce among the over-50s has soared by 19 per cent to 23,000 a year since 1998, official figures show. The overall UK divorce rate fell 16 per cent to 130,000 a year.
“Suddenly singles”, widows and those entering their 50s and 60s not in a relationship make up the particularly high number of Swofties – Single Women Over Fifty – according to researchers.
A Department for Work and Pensions study said: “Women in this age group wave goodbye to their children, are suddenly alone with their partner and realise that they want something else from life.”
But one downside, says the Department, is that many older women suddenly have to deal with the financial affairs and paperwork that their husbands traditionally managed.
Researchers found that 14 per cent of women over 50 take on a new job when they split from a partner and 13 per cent deal with money issues they have never tackled before. Sixteen per cent have never completed a tax return and 19 per cent have not opened a bank account.
Three in 10 find themselves paying the household bills for the first time in their lives after divorcing in their 50s and beyond.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Mandatory Retirement in the UK, Canada and the USA

TAEN has produced a most enlightening summary of how the US and Canada compare with the UK in how they deal with mandatory retirement.   The US abandoned it in 1986 and the Canadians in 2009. There is an excellent review of the arguments typically advanced by employers to justify mandatory retirement. Without exception the research clearly shoots down each one:
  • younger employees are more productive than older ones
  • Wage premiums and monitoring costs would increase
  • Older workers need to make room for the young
  • it facilitates workforce planning
Read this. It is fascinating and makes you wonder just what the CBI is frightened of. Inadequate managers is the term that comes immediately to mind.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Managing an older workforce

An excellent article in the Economist gives many examples of companies that are leading the way in maximising the potential of older workers.
A forthcoming article in the Harvard Business Review by Christoph Loch of INSEAD and two colleagues looks at what happened when BMW decided to staff one of its production lines with workers of an age likely to be typical at the firm in 2017. At first “the pensioners’ line” was less productive. But the firm brought it up to the level of the rest of the factory by introducing 70 relatively small changes, such as new chairs, comfier shoes, magnifying lenses and adjustable tables.A much fuller description of this is the article in the Sunday Times by Christoph Loch.
Some companies, particularly in energy and engineering, are also realising that they could face a debilitating loss of skills when the baby-boomers retire en masse. Bosch asks all retirees to sit down for a formal interview in an attempt to “capture” their wisdom for younger workers. Construction companies such as Sweden’s Elmhults Konstruktions and the Netherlands’ Hazenberg Bouw have introduced mentoring systems that encourage prospective retirees to train their replacements.
Companies will have to do more than this if they are to survive the silver tsunami. They will have to rethink the traditional model of the career. This will mean breaking the time-honoured link between age and pay—a link which ensures that workers get ever more expensive even as their faculties decline. It will also mean treating retirement as a phased process rather than a sudden event marked by a sentimental speech and a carriage clock.

There are signs that this is beginning to happen. A few firms have introduced formal programmes of “phased retirement”, though they usually single out white-collar workers for the privilege. Some, notably consultancies and energy companies, have developed pools of retired or semi-retired workers who can be called upon to work on individual projects. Asda allows employees to work only during busy periods or take several months off in winter (a perk dubbed “Benidorm leave”). Abbott Laboratories, a large American health-care company, allows veteran staff to work for four days a week or take up to 25 extra days of holiday a year.
But there is one big problem with such seemingly neat arrangements: the plethora of age-discrimination laws that have been passed over the past few years make it harder for companies to experiment and easier for a handful of malcontents to sue.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Fasting your way to a longer and healthier life

Well - see the article in the Daily Mail and judge for yourself!  

Fasting every other day may be a way to live longer as well as lose weight.It may also lower the risk of conditions such as heart disease and cancer, as well as ease symptoms of chronic ailments.
Research suggests that calorie restriction, especially alternate-day fasting, has effects beyond those of simple weight loss, and a trial at the University of California has been investigating the long-term effects of fasting.

Monday, 15 February 2010

More on the internet savvy generation

A study has found that not only are more over-50s using the internet, but it's actually improving their mental health.

More than 2,000 silver surfers were quizzed by about their online habits and the report found that the over-50s spend an average of 26 hours a week online.

Most of their surfing is devoted to checking emails (83 per cent) with almost two-thirds shopping and banking online.Silver surfers are also logging on to social networks - spending more than three hours a week catching up with friends and family.

The study concluded that the majority of silver surfers have easier lives thanks to the internet with browsing the web helping to keep their minds active.

This was in stark contrast to findings in a recent study which found that the average 21-year-old is becoming more depressed with links being made with between mood and internet use. 
As the generation Y users are turning away from Facebook, their grandparents are filling their places on the social networking site.
The 55+'s are the fastest growing group to sign up to sites such as Facebook and MySpace, often using them to keep up to date with the lives of family and friends, especially grandchildren  and overseas - assuming they aren't among the growing number of younger users abandoning the social networking sites.
Figures show that the number of older users of Facebook increased nearly tenfold in America last year, while university-age users declined by 55 per cent.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Happy chinese new year

treeIt is not just Valentine's Day today but also Chinese New Year - the year of the Tiger no less. I was reminded of this by looking at the latest posting on my daughter's website - she is an acupuncturist in Leeds (a brilliant one of course). I have borrowed much of the following from her website.
"It is actually the year of the Metal Tiger (the first since 1950) and will end on 2nd February 2011. The New Year celebration starts with the new moon and ends with the full moon 15 days later and this is commemorated with the Lantern Festival during which Chinese lanterns with wishes painted on them are let loose into the skies.
The cycle of 12 animal signs originates from Chinese tradition as a way of naming years. The animals follow an order and are repeated every 12 years. They are made up of the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig and each has its own characteristics which are symbolic for those born under that sign.
Over 60% of the world’s population will be celebrating Chinese New Year and although traditions and customs differ across China and in the rest of the world where celebrations will be taking place, many are shared.
Traditionally preparing for the New Year sees much cleaning of the home taking place, although one should always sweep and empty rubbish from the back door as the front door may mean sweeping away good fortune or a family member! All cleaning must stop on New Years Day and rubbish must not be thrown out until the 5th day. On the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve every door and window should be opened to allow the old year to leave and welcome in the New Year.
Supper on New Year’s Eve is a family feast and commemorates the ancestors, ending with firecrackers. Don’t cut your noodles as you could be cutting through your long life. The first person one meets in the New Year and the first words heard are symbolic for the year ahead. It is particularly lucky to see and hear songbirds, red coloured birds or swallows. Don’t wash your hair on New Year’s Day as you may wash away your good fortune and don’t use scissors and knives – you may be cutting your good fortune in pieces! And avoid crying. Crying on New Year’s Day brings tears all year!
Red is a colour of good luck and fortune and is often worn at this time. Doors and windows can be decorated with red paper and money is given in red envelopes. I’m thinking of commemorating the New Year with a Wishing Tree. I’ll be writing my wishes on red paper and tying them onto the tree and hoping the power of the Tiger will make them come true!
Chinese forecasters are predicting that 2010, the year of the White Tiger, will be a time of change. It can bring passion, protection, power and travel. One should prepare for potential conflicts although it could also herald vigour and prove beneficial for those who can harness the power it offers. The general advice may be to keep a steady hand on the helm!
Find out your own personal forecast according to your animal sign.
People born under the Tiger sign (1926,1938,1950,1962,1974,1986, 1998 and 2010) are born under a sign for courage. Having a Tiger in the house wards off fire, thieves and ghosts! The Tiger is a natural leader, symbolizing power, passion and daring. They are active, confident, dynamic, independent and unpredictable. They can be quick-tempered but considerate (and very generous with money), affectionate but careless. They cannot pass on a challenge and will fight to the death. Their challenge is to learn to pace themselves so they do not burn out and recognise early signs of ill health although they tend to recover quickly from illness and pain.
Tigers can be playful and enthusiastic and get bored easily. Well liked by others due to their charm, Tigers are warm, and generous with their time, money and attention. They can often be hunting for the next challenge although quick bursts of energy can be followed by exhaustion or even depression.  They may appear cool but like every great cat, can pounce with no notice. Their contradiction can be rashness and hesitancy. But if they know how to relax they can be very successful.
For those of you expecting to have babies in this White Tiger Year, the metal element gives this Tiger a sharpness in action and speed of thought. These Tigers will like to stand out from the crowd. With an inspiring assertiveness and competitive demeanour, they will determine their goals and then do all they can to achieve them. Watch out for their mood swings or temper and guide them not to jump to conclusions and to understand that their actions have consequences. Tiger babies and children are cheerful with a passion for life and natural curiosity. They can be keen to compete and take part in challenges and thrive from having freedom in which to express themselves."
Tibetan Proverb: “It is better to have lived one day as a tiger than a thousand as a sheep”.
So now you know! Enjoy both days.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

So its our genes that make us look old or young!

Presumably as well as how we live our lives.
A British research team made this discovery after studying the DNA of more than 12,000 people and identifying one stretch of DNA that clearly sped up ageing, the journal Nature Genetics reports.
Up to 7 per cent of the population has two copies of it, meaning they look up to eight years older than people of the same age. Another 38 per cent has one copy, ageing them by three to four years.
A fortunate 55 per cent do not have it at all. Instead, they have two copies of the "Peter Pan" gene, meaning they remain youthful-looking for longer.
The key to the study was the length of telomeres – tiny biological clocks that cap the ends of chromosomes. They get shorter with time, until eventually the cells die.
Researchers from the University of Leicester and King's College London found that people with the "Peter Pan" DNA had longer telomeres, meaning their biological clocks ticked more slowly.
 So now we will all be waiting for tests to be available so we can check this out and then of course we will want ways of reversing this process.  On the other hand we could just grow old gracefully!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

How old do we feel?

I was amused to come across this website the other day. It's a nice domestic type of personal blog but what got my attention was Ashley's description of herself as ,"I'm a 20-something married girl living in a 50's housewife's body". Just how often do you hear people in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's say something similar. We always encourage people to take the Real Age test to see if your biological age is similar to your chronological age but whatever that tells you don't most of us feel a hell of lot younger inside than what that mirror image reveals to us .......

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The CBI view on Default Retirement Age

Never let it be said that I do not listen to opposing views so go to Personnel Today again to read what Katya Hall from CBI has to say about this vital issue. Of course I still think she is wrong and portrays British management as a very poor set of performance managers. She also has little idea of just what can be achieved by involving older workers in restructuring jobs. Anyway - judge for yourself!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Employers Forum on Age argues against Default Retirement Age

Rachel Krys, campaign director for the Employers Forum on Age, has written a most insightful article for Personnel Today in which as well as arguing against the DRA on age discrimination grounds points out the strange and very old fashioned thinking that emanates from the CBI on this issue. This is so good that I am passing on an extract from the article.

"No doubt the CBI will submit its research, which states that 81% of requests to remain working are being accepted. This is supported by the EFA's own research. But we have also submitted the research we carried out with 200 HR professionals last summer. It found that almost two-thirds (64%) of employers who operate a mandatory retirement age agree that it can lead to a loss of valuable knowledge and talent.
Among those organisations that have removed the mandatory retirement age, more than three-quarters considered it a positive step for their organisation and said it helped maintain valuable skills and their organisation's customer-facing image and reputation.
But what is happening to the people whose requests to stay on weren't granted? And how many are not even getting to that stage because there is a strong culture that encourages people to retire? If they are being forced to retire against their will, there is nothing they can do about it.
In addition to the research, the EFA also carried out focus groups with employers, exploring the barriers to removing the DRA. The central concern continues to be lack of confidence in their own performance management systems. This is exacerbated by the ongoing belief that performance declines rapidly with age and people will want to work for ever, given the chance. Although there is little evidence to support these stereotypes, the image that there will be old people who can't do the job, clogging up the corridors, is persistent.
Few employers have much confidence in their appraisal schemes. But the organisations that have removed a retirement age, including B&Q, Nationwide, JD Wetherspoon, Marks and Spencer and BT, have identified an improvement in the rigour and effectiveness of their performance management schemes as one of the biggest benefits. When you take away retirement, managers can no longer allow poor performers to coast.
The argument that retirement allows people to leave work with dignity is still used, and some employers seem to be clinging onto this paternalistic approach. However, none of the employers who operate without a retirement age have any evidence that there is a loss of dignity or that older workers are being forced to stay on when they are no longer capable. In reality, the majority of employees are very alert to their capabilities and most want to continue working for a relatively short time to fit in with other commitments they have."

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Baby boomers are not just hedonists

This is the title of an entertaining article by Brian Groom in the FT this week. He takes a bit of a swipe at David Willetts new book the subject of which is clear from its title: The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Stole Their Children’s Future and How They Can Give It Back.  Apparently we have been having a 50 year party leaving the mess for our kids to pick up. I think we may just have contributed to some extraordinary social developments whilst 'partying' and of course we are now subsidising those children and their children in the many ways that we have posted about on this site over the past year or so. So I agree totally with Brian that we are not just hedonists. I hope, however, that David's book does not herald a change of attitude towards default retirement age. I interviewed him a year ago and he was clearly against it at that point but more recently Theresa May appears to be fence sitting. Maybe another Conservative policy that might benefit from clarity?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Interviewed by Bill Vicks in the US

I was recently contacted by Bill Vicks in Texas who is a portfolio worker and amongst other things has a site called BoomersNext  Bill interviewed me about the work that Mike and I have been doing relating to the over 50's and it kind of moved over into the work that I have and currently am doing with Katie Ledger on portfolio careers. I do apologise for the length but as Bill put it I am a recovering academic! So be glad I did not talk for 50 minutes without stopping. This is only 19 minutes so would just have qualified as a TED talk......

This gets syndicated to a multitude of sites in the US.

Anyway if you are really bored do have a look.