HR Hartley

Old age in the UK is no place for cissies

Hollywood legend Bette Davis must have foreseen the UK’s pension crisis when
she remarked "old age ain’t no place for cissies".

It certainly isn’t for those ‘cissies’ who eke out an existence on a miserly
state pension, while stumping up one-sixth or more of it to local authorities
to pay punitive council tax rates. Nor for the 65,000-plus whose occupational
pension schemes have collapsed. Is it any wonder that so many oldies want to
work on?

This, coupled with the rise in the number of elderly people in the UK, will
have profound implications for HR and training departments.

Consider the statistics. According to the Office for National Statistics,
there were 7.4 million over-65s in 1971, 9.2 million in 1996 and there will be
13 million in 2030. The last census, in 2001, showed the number of over-85s had
risen five-fold since 1951 and was 1.1 million in 2001.

A JPMorgan Fleming report says 53 per cent of working adults in the UK can
expect to face financial difficulties in their retirement. And a recent Norwich
Union survey found one in five people return to work after retirement, and 64
per cent of over-50s oppose a compulsory retirement age.

Let’s hope HR and training departments can meet elderly workers’ needs
rather more adroitly than Chancellor Gordon Brown, whose 1997 abolition of
dividend tax credits for pension funds costs them about £5bn a year.

Consider the training challenges:

– Excel exercises for the over-65s

– Arthritis and your mouse

– Decision-making for the hard of hearing

– Beating afternoon nap syndrome

– Incontinence and your colleagues

– What to do when the lifts break.

But there is a bright side. The over-65s, at least until the 2025
comprehensive-school educated intake, will be numerate and literate without
electronic aids. These are skills that most organisations must value.

Hartley, our new weekly columnist with strong opinion, is an HR director
at large

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