A new age is on the horizon - one where age itself is accepted and valued in the modern workforce. One driver of this change is pure economic necessity, as a result of falling birth rates, skills shortages, the expense of hiring new recruits, and the need for experience. Another is the maturing of an unusual generation for whom stereotypes are taboo.
Today's older people are healthier, better educated and more materialistic than their forebears. And, perhaps most importantly, the older generation "doesn't want to be old", says Sara Rix, senior policy adviser for the AARP, a US advocacy group for the over-50s.
Carin Eriksson, managing director for Sweden's Institute for Personnel and Corporate Development, adds: "People are not of their age group anymore. We are more individualistic. It is not age that dictates behaviour; it's other things."
Even in traditionalist Japan, attitude changes are imminent. "The lifestyle for older people has changed," says Kimiko Inoue, a consultant with Mercer HR Consulting in Tokyo. "They want individual happiness."
There is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach that works for all countries, or even all companies, in bringing this workforce back into the fold. But here's a sample of how three different countries are finding their way.
Sweden recently increased the age to which employees have the right to work to 67, and the Government wants to find other ways to keep people working later in life.
"We are searching for incentives to make it more profitable both for employers and employees," says Jan Gronlund, state secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications.
Sweden's unemployment rate has dropped significantly in recent years, but a particular problem has been a trend towards workers easing from state-supported, long-term sick leave into early retirement. This sharpens the double-edged sword of drawn down state pension funds and limits the country's economic growth. "There's nothing wrong with early retirement, but we must make it easier to come back into working life," Gronlund says.
The Swedish pension system has recently undergone significant reforms, which may provide an impetus to work longer. "Many are shocked at the low pensions they will receive, and know they will have to work longer," says Carin Eriksson of the Institute for Personnel and Corporate Development.
Individual businesses are giving other reasons to