Sunday, 31 January 2010

Spain shows the way

Spain's government said Friday it had approved a plan to raise the official retirement age from 65 to 67 to help social security system to cope with a rapidly ageing population.
Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said the plan, which would be debated in parliament, "would bring the new retirement age to 67."
The current legal retirement age is 65 for both men and women.
"Our (social security) system is good shape today," but reforms are necessary to maintain it in the future, said de la Vega.
Finance Minister Elena Salgado said the government would introduce the reform gradually from 2013.
"It's a proposal ... we have a lot of time to debate it," she said.
Two major unions, the CCOO and the UGT, have already condemned the plan but Spain's employers' association, the CEOE, has called for the retirement age to be brought up to 70.

Who  is going to have the courage to do this here? This G'ment says nothing and the Tories are talking about upping it to 66 in 2016. Really courageous.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Why older workers have so much to offer

Chris Roebuck, a professor at Cass Business School, reckons his research has shown that older workers are more focused and determined, more motivated to exceed expectations, easier to engage, take a longer term view, and better at dealing with difficult situations. Even if their energy levels are declining, he adds, they compensate with better interpersonal skills. ‘It is clear to me that older workers are probably better for organisations than many people think,’ he insists. ‘Most CEOs are over 60, and so the question is: why are they valued but 'workers' over 60 are not?’ It’s a fair point. And with the Government keen to get more silver surfers online via its Digital Inclusion agenda, they should have plenty of opportunity to put these skills to good commercial use – either as mentors or as workers in their own right. Most discussions of the retirement age tend to focus on fairness, or the financial consequences of trying to support an ageing population where people may spend up to a third of their life in retirement (and it’s true that allowing us to work longer would save a fortune in pension payments for the threadbare public purse). But as these awards remind us, UK plc has much to gain commercially by making better use of our older citizens.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Equality and Human Rights Commission

An excellent article in the Times by Baroness Prosser today states that:
"A quiet revolution is taking place in attitudes towards ageing and work. The stereotype used to say that older workers were winding down as they watched the clock. Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that the opposite is true. More than half of people aged 50 and over hope to keep on working past the state pension age.

Most are still keen to learn and develop and more than twice as many aspire to get promoted than to downshift. In other words, many do not want to disengage from the world of work: they want to become more involved.

That change in expectations has gone alongside a change in lifestyles. Getting older no longer automatically means feeling less healthy. More than three fifths of older workers say that they feel “as fit as ever”. Nor should we automatically assume that older people have finished with their family responsibilities. Nearly one in ten 70-75 year olds still support their children financially.

The case for enabling people to work for longer as a matter of personal choice is strong, but allied to the economic argument, it becomes irresistible. Research from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research shows that extending working lives by 18 months would inject £15 billion into British economy. In the current economic climate that could hardly be more welcome".

Older workers are finding it harder than any other age group to get a job after being made redundant.

Barriers, ranging from legislation to old-fashioned prejudice, keep them out of work. Ageism already costs the economy up to an estimated £30 billion each year. If this is a problem today, very soon it will be a major headache. In as little as 20 years’ time, half of us will be aged 50 or over. Overlooking that wealth of talent and experience is a sure way to make the economy suffer.

That’s why it’s high time to match the revolution in older people’s lifestyles and attitudes with a revolution in workplace practices. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is recommending a series of urgent steps to enable British business to adapt and thrive in the 21st century.

First, do away with the default retirement age. There is no more obvious form of unfair discrimination against older people. But this needs to be accompanied by a range of thoughtful changes in employer practices.

Most important is flexibility. Sixty eight per cent of over-50s who are unemployed but below pension age, and 85 per cent of people who are economically inactive and over pension age, said that greater availability of flexible and part-time work would help them to find jobs. We believe that it makes sense to extend the right to request flexible working to everyone.

It’s also time to look again at recruitment, training and workplace health programmes, where small but significant changes could help employers to attract and retain the talented people they need.

And yet we still have commentators moaning on about older workers taking jobs away from younger ones, managers having to spent too much time managing performance and maybe having to tell someone that they are not really capable of doing a job anymore. Note that last statement - not that someone is too old to be doing this job but not capable of doing it. Is not that a managerial function for any age?

We are still awaiting an official G'ment response to all of this and indeed to Harriet Harmon's views that are very much in line with this new report. The Lib Dems are totally against the Default Retirement Age although the Tories now seem to be wavering on the sidelines. I was told categorically by David Willetts 6 months ago that they were against this but maybe some of their business supporters from the CBI have been nobbling them. The same group that have nobbled Lord Mandelson. Come on you commentators - just look at what a non issue this is in the US where it was abandoned over a decade ago.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Free personality tests

Psychometric testing is expensive so imagine my amazement at discovering a new website offering free personality testing with more to come. It has been set up by psychometricians who worked for SHL - one of the leading psychological test constructors in the UK. The first test they have is based on the big 5 personality test that most psychologists adhere to. All I can tell you is that I tried it out and I reckon that it is almost 100% correct for me and correlates for me very highly with the big 5 tests that have to be paid for.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Over 50's should curb iron and copper intake

Although copper and iron are essential nutrients scientists writing in the ACS Journal warn that steps should be taken to limit intake of both for consumers over age 50. Copper and iron that builds up in the body as we get older could contribute to a variety of age related diseases.

The scientists say most consumers are unaware of copper and iron toxicity, as are most physicians. The study authors also note that large populations are at risk for Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and other age-related disorders from buildup of iron and copper in the body.

In the report, George Brewer states, "This story of copper and iron toxicity, which I think is reaching the level of public health significance, is virtually unknown to the general medical community, to say nothing of complete unawareness of the public. It seems clear that large segments of the population are at risk for toxicities from free copper and free iron, and to me, it seems clear that preventive steps should begin now."

The author cites a study showing “that in the general population those in the highest fifth of copper intake, if they are also eating a relatively high fat diet, lose cognition at over three times the normal rate.”

To lower the chances of age related diseases, Brewer suggests against vitamins containing copper or iron for consumers over age 50. He also suggests avoiding water that comes through copper pipes, reducing meat intake and regularly donating blood to reduce iron levels. After age 50, copper and iron excess can lead to oxidative stress, contributing to Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, vascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and possibly more. The study author says older consumers should take steps to avoid intake of each.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Eating sardines may slow ageing

Oily fish, such as sardines, could slow the aging process, a new US study has found.

Scientists at the University of California at San Francisco have published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association and have found that Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil preserve the genetic "fuse" that determines the lifespan of cells.

The research was carried out on heart disease patients, and found that rodents live one-third longer when given a diet enriched with fish-derived omega-3.

Taking fish oil supplements is said to protect against heart disease, improve survival rates after a heart attack, reduce mental decline in old age and help to prevent age-related changes in the eye that can lead to blindness.

Each time a cell divides, its telomeres get shorter until a critical point is reached. DNA then becomes damaged and the cell stops dividing, and may die. In this way, the telomere acts like a biological fuse.

The rate at which the fuse "burns" can vary both between individual people and individual cells. This is believed to have an impact on age-related diseases.

The study was led by Dr Ramin Farzaneh-Far, who said the findings raised the possibility that omega-3 fatty acids may protect against cellular ageing in patients with coronary heart disease.

Sources of Omega 3 fatty acids:

Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, flaxseed, linseed, walnuts, hazelnuts, eggs.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Are you eligible for benefits?

It is often very difficult to know so thanks again to Martin Lewis for coming up with some easy tools to enable you to check out your eligibility. If you are not signed up for his weekly newsletter you should do so as it could save you money and acquaint you with all of the recent financial bargains.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Millions invested to create new wave of silver surfers

This is the scheme for anyone who knows someone in a residential home or who has never used a computer and learned to surf the web.

Nearly 20,000 people living in sheltered housing will be switched on to the internet under £2.9m plans being developed by the Government to boost the number of silver surfers Communities Minister Lord McKenzie and Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society Angela Eagle announced today.

With two thirds of those over the age of 65 in sheltered housing without online access, the new ‘Get Digital’ programme will help them become internet savvy and enjoy the wider social and economic benefits of the digital world.

‘Get Digital’ – to be delivered on the Government’s behalf by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and Digital Unite - will provide these people with access to computers and the training they need to make the most of the new technology on offer. Local schools will also link up with sheltered housing schemes so that young and old can learn together.

For further information about the ‘Get Digital’ Programme, please email:

A national network of digital mentors has been set up to give those who are unfamiliar with new technology the skills they need to use the internet. This is led by the Media Trust and is now called Community Voices (

Friday, 15 January 2010

50+'s retiring gradually

Some new research from Saga suggests that more and more over 50's have adopted a gradual approach to retirement.

Around 24% of people in the age group have rejected full retirement in favour of continuing with some paid work, as well as carrying out voluntary work and having more leisure time. This is up from 19.5% 10 years ago. The group predicts there will be a 50% increase in the number of people who take this approach to retirement during the next 10 years, with around three million over-50s combining work and volunteering by 2019.

The research found that people typically start scaling back their working hours when they are 57, with the average person carrying out 27 hours a week of paid work and eight hours of voluntary work.

Around 97% of people aged over 50 said they would not want to continue working full-time until they reached the state pension age, but 38% would like to work on after 65 if they were offered shorter, more flexible hours, while 69% would like to do some voluntary work.

A third of people who have already retired said they would prefer to still be doing some paid work, although the majority wanted to do 10 hours or less a week.

Among those aged over 50 who had continued in paid employment 70% said they loved working.

Older workers were most likely to enjoy their jobs if they felt connected to the community, with those working in retail, teaching and nursing having the highest levels of job satisfaction.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Harriet Harmon finally 'comes out'

The minister responsible for equality has finally spoken, hopefully on behalf of the G'ment, stating that a major shake-up in the law is vital to smash the idea that people are 'past it' once they hit 65.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Miss Harman, said it should be scrapped. Older people would also be given the right to request flexible hours from their employer. People would not be forced to work beyond 65, but would have the option to choose to - meaning they could stay on into their 70s or even their 80s. Like parents with young children, they should also get a legal right to ask to work part-time or from home, or make a range of other variations to their hours, Miss Harman said.

The change in the law would cover staff who have already signed contracts that say they will retire at the normal age.

Having reported this good news the Mail then goes on to comment how unpopular this will be with employers. Clearly the reporter has not done his research. The majority of employers have not signed up for default retirement. The CBI still stands out as the one organisation that has little confidence in managers being able to conduct proper performance reviews. They also seem to be blissfully unaware that all the research we have on older workers states that they do not want more of the same. They want to 'downsize' their jobs. Most are prepared to accept less money for less stress and for fewer days at work. And the upside is that with the demographic timebomb shortly to explode they will be grateful not to lose the expertise and wisdom of this older worker group.

Such a shame that it has taken the Hague case and years of wasted time and distress caused to those approaching 65 for the G'ment to join the other political parties and most other relevant organisations in putting a stop to what Ms Harmon actually calls the 'last legally permitted discrimination' which is against the elderly.

Monday, 11 January 2010

How to live to be 100

A fascinating TED talk by Dan Buettner, National Geographic writer and explorer. Working with a team Dan is studying the world's longest-lived peoples, distilling their secrets into a single plan for health and long life. In this 2009 talk he shares the 9 common diet and lifestyle habits that keep them spry past age 100.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

When did you last have sex?

This could be a question that men might be routinely asked as part of a screening programme for propensity to heart disease. A new research study in the US found that with all other factors held constant men who had sex twice a week cuts down the risk of heart disease by half. In addition, having sex once or twice a week in winter can boost the immune system and reduce the chances of catching colds and flu, according to researchers at Wilkes University, Pennsylvania.

They found it boosted levels of immunoglobulin A or IGA which binds to organisms that invade the body and then activates the immune system to destroy them.

So now you know - and I have had viral infection and a cold this winter already!!

Friday, 8 January 2010

New publisher

Our book was published by Middlesex University Press who we think made a very good job of it. Sadly, as part of the overall University cuts Middlesex decided to axe its publishing wing in December. Fortunately, the key people in the publishing company have set up a new company, Libri Publishing. You will now find our book on their new website and from now on the book will be available from them. They also have lots of ideas about building on the book so we believe that its future will be rosy.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

World of Employment Map

Those of you familiar with The Rainbow Years may have come across a major reference after the skills and interests diagnostics to the World of Employment Map. This is now on an LSC website on advice resources but now has a new website address to the one printed in the book. It is now

Bit long I know but it is the place to look if you are wanting information on nearly 800 jobs in 27 job families and it is defined according to your transferable skills and occupational interests.

Over 50s Hit Hard By Recession

New figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal the number of long-term (6-12 months) unemployed over-50s has increased by 135 per cent, the highest increase among all age groups. Men are being hit hardest among this age group, with the numbers of long term unemployed increasing by 185 percent, the highest increase among all age groups.

Andrew Harrop, Head of Public Policy for Age Concern and Help the Aged, said:

"These figures confirm our fears that men in their 50s are being hit hard by the recession, with the number of long term unemployed men over 50 nearly trebling over the past year.

"Employers ageist attitudes mean many older workers simply aren't getting the opportunities to return to employment and research shows the longer it takes, the more unlikely it is they will ever get back to work.

"An end to the working lives of men in their 50s now will not only condemn them to an uncomfortable retirement, but will also deprive the recovering economy of their skills and experience, just when they are most needed.

"The Government's Employment White Paper shows it has listened to the plight of the over 50s. We hope the package of support they have promised will help prevent a lost generation of older workers becoming trapped in long-term unemployment."

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Advice from Regina Brett

We came across this great piece written by the US Columnist Regina Brett, after she turned 50 last year.

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written.

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5.. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay cheque.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16.. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets and towels; use the best china and glassware; wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39.. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Portfolio careers

I have already announced the launch of my latest book on portfolio careers and there are a number of videos from that launch on This will give you a taste of what the project is all about. And the relevance to this site? We found evidence to suggest that the idea of a portfolio career has special attractions for the over 50's who are searching for a different way to the traditional single track career.

Older workers to delay retirement

A CIPD survey of 2000 older workers sheds light on people's thoughts about retirement. 71 per cent of those aged 55 and above now plan to work on past state pension age, compared with just 40 per cent in a similar survey conducted two years ago.

Although financial reasons were given as a driver for wanting or having to work on, there were plenty of other motivations cited in the survey.

Sixty-five per cent said they would like to continue using their skills and experience.

Fifty-eight per cent said they wanted the social interaction that work brings and 44 per cent said work was good for their self esteem.

The older people get, or the closer to state pension age, the more likely they are to be planning to work on, the survey shows, suggesting that “reality bites as they get close to drawing their pension”.

Nearly half of those aged 45 to 54 expect to work on past a state pension age that on current plans will rise to 66 in 2026 and 67 in 2036.

In recent years, the numbers working on past state pension age have been one of the fastest growing sections of the workforce.

The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show that more than 1.4m are currently working past state pension age – 450,000 men aged over 65 and 953,000 women aged over 60.

Over the past year, that section of the workforce has risen by 5.8 per cent when employment has fallen for almost all other age groups.

The baby boomers come of old age

Do look at an excellent summary article in the FT which highlights the significant historical fact that the baby boomers are now all hitting traditional retirement age and yet more and more of us are not behaving in traditional ways.

Friday, 1 January 2010

So why am I taking Ginkgo biloba?

Elderly people who took Ginkgo biloba every day for six years had as many difficulties with recall as those who took a fake supplement, the largest study of its kind has shown.

At least 100,000 people in Britain are thought to regularly take the supplement, which has been widely credited with improving memory and concentration.

Made from the leaves of the Ginkgo tree, the Chinese herbal remedy has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries.

It is thought to contain chemicals which help the flow of blood around the body, which advocates believe will help protect the brain against decline.

But the researchers who carried out the latest study warned that the supplement appeared to have no effect on warding off age-related memory problems.

Beth Snitz, from the University of Pittsburgh, who led the study, said: “Ginkgo biloba is marketed widely and used with the hope of improving, preventing, or delaying cognitive impairment associated with ageing and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

“We (found) no evidence that Ginkgo biloba slows the rate of cognitive decline in older adults.”

For the study the team followed 3,069 volunteers, all of whom were aged between 72 and 96 years old and were given either a dose of the herbal supplement or a placebo twice a day for more than six years.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Earlier studies have suggested that Ginkgo biloba could have other health benefits apart from memory, including reducing damage to the brain during a stroke.

280,000 Britons will be centenarians by 2050

When I give talks on the pluses of being 50+ I often refer to the rather staggering fact that when the Queen came to the throne in 1953 she sent out 200 telegrams to centenarians. In 2009 that figure was closer to 11,000. Research just published now suggests that more than 280,000 of us will reach that age by 2050. Even hope for me then!

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions predict that the number of 100-year-olds will double to 22,000 by 2020, double again by 2030 and hit 280,000 in 2050.

They will be living for more than a century thanks to improved diets, medical advances and a move away from manual labour.

While those currently under the age of 60 may be looking forward to a lengthy retirement, the figures raise fears over how the pubic purse will cope.

Meeting the cost of public sector workers' pensions is already imposing a punishing burden on the taxpayer.Separately, company pension schemes are being ripped up, leaving workers vulnerable to poverty in old age. The net effect is that millions of Britons will have to work well into their sixties and beyond if they are to maintain a decent standard of living.

But on a positive note, the older generation may also begin to wield more cultural and political power as they acquire proportionally more votes and financial muscle.

Work and Pensions Minister Lord McKenzie said: 'It is clear that in the coming years an older society offers great opportunities as well as challenges.

'Opportunities for those in retirement to continue working, learning and contributing to society, but challenges around how best to support this group. The biggest changes to pensions for a generation will mean that millions of people will be saving for their retirement.'