Scientist Susan Greenfield calls on politicians and HR to keep older people in work

Scientist baroness Susan Greenfield has challenged the UK’s politicians to admit that working longer is good for you.

Greenfield told delegates, at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s annual conference in Harrogate this week, that the scientific evidence which demonstrates how humans differ from monkeys and other animals also proves that keeping mentally active is actually good for your health.

Referring to Conservative Party leader David Cameron’s comments about valuing older people, Greenfield said: “Eventually, one of the politicians is going to latch on to the fact that they can tell you that its good for old people to continue to work. Your brain is not going to automatically deteriorate just because you are older.”

She warned that that the greying of the workforce was something that politicians had to face up to sooner rather than later. Greenfield also weighed into the controversy over obesity in developed countries, by suggesting that obese people are actually mentally slower than their more svelte colleagues.

She demonstrated this by showing the activity patterns of newborn babies, healthy adults, brain-damaged individuals and the clinically obese. Those with brain damage reverted to a child-like state and the same was true of people who were overweight.

Greenfield was giving a talk on the future of work and how technology will literally “change our mindsets” as our lifetime experiences change beyond recognition.

She said the way the brain works will alter as technology develops and as the way we learn work changes. “We have to ask ourselves ‘what do we want 21st century citizens to learn?,” she said. “Only then can we harness the technology to deliver it.”

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