Future Friday: Are you prepared for very old workers?


Are you ready for him to working at 100 years old?
Are you ready for him to working at 100 years old?

Arriving in my mail today was the August issue of HRMagazine. On the cover was the title of an article “Invest in Older Workers.” I am not going to write about that article but I thought it was interesting given that I am writing about older workers, very older workers. What would your company have to do if your employees kept their jobs until they were 100 years old? Are you prepared for very old workers?
Curing age
The reason I ask that question is that scientists say they are on the verge of “curing” the aging process. Aging is a process of wear and tear on the body. What if there was technology to offset the effects of that wear and tear. According to anti-aging activist Aubrey de Grey, quoted by Dick Pelletier in his article End of aging within reach, experts say, we “could remain healthy for millennia without fears of dying from old age.” Pelletier says “Aging is a destructive biochemical event, experts say, and scientists are on the brink of developing interventions for all of its life-destroying processes.” He goes on to say “Most forward-thinking scientists believe the goal to end aging is technologically achievable, and it could be reached in time to benefit many people alive today.”
Author Ray Kurzweil, who wrote the book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, confirmed that we are in early stages of an anti-aging revolution. “By 2020,” he says, “biotech upgrades will add more than one year of life expectancy to our lives each year.” Think about that in just seven years from now we all have the possibility of living longer than ever before.
Beyond 2020
Pelletier extends this concept beyond the near future to a bit further out by saying:
By 2035-to-2040, advances in molecular nanotech and an explosion in artificial intelligence hold great promise to unravel the mysteries of consciousness, while increasing intelligence a billion-fold. Experts predict this will enable replacement of much of our biology with more durable non-biological tissues.
Of course much of this advancement may not have a major impact on my age cohort, the Baby Boomers, and how we interact with the world of work, but Gen X and Gen Y and all those that follow will have significant opportunities. How will this affect the world of work and HR?
HR implications
There are a number of implications for how work will be viewed and there will be many things HR will have to be prepared to deal with. In my view these include:

  • The concept of retirement will have to be radically changed. The concept of leaving the workforce at age 67, which has already started to erode, will seem to be totally ridiculous.
  • Companies will have to work hard at keeping employees challenged and engaged after all doing the same job for 50 years can be very boring.
  • Companies may have to look at “job sharing” in a different way. Rather than sharing during the week jobs will be shared during the year. Fred will work during the first six months and Max the seconds six months, or some variation of that.
  • Companies will have to increase the amount of training they are conducting in order to keep long term employees up to speed with changes in technology.
  • Managers will have to rid themselves of the concept of “old” means slower and decrepit. That will be eliminated through science. Stronger, faster, smarter and older.

And when a worker finally does retire, the service award will be to commemorate their 100th year with the company. What do you think of that?
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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