EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?

This blog was contributed by Nicola Robinson, Age UK’s European Political Adviser.

2012 wasn’t just the year of the London Olympics, and the Queen’s Jubilee, it was also the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012).

Like London 2012 – recognised as happy and glorious, EY2012 leaves us with much to celebrate.

The Opening Ceremony took place in Copenhagen – a pretty good place to grow old, with impressive participation rates in employment, volunteering and all sorts of fun.EY2012

Commissioner Andor fired the starting pistol and Eurocrats were off to a flyer, producing a bumper crop of pan-European reports, including a Statistical Portrait, 2012 Ageing Report, and Eurobarometer Survey.

There are now 182m Europeans aged 50+, living longer, more active lives than ever before.

To celebrate, Age UK hosted a World Café, organized by older people, inviting 100 Europeans aged 50+ to help change perceptions of ageing.  We also celebrated the huge contribution of older people at our Volunteering Awards, supported by the European Commission and Parliament.  And we celebrated physical activity in later life, through our Fit as a Fiddle programme, which won EU and WHO plaudits. Continue reading “EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?”

Guest blog – Working beyond retirement age

This guest blog was contributed by Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAENThe Age and Employment Network. 

The idea of a given ‘retirement age,’ when most people abruptly cease work, may soon be a thing of the past. While it is important not to exaggerate this trend, we can’t just ignore it.

Every day, it seems, the media carries stories about how people will have to work longer. Sarah O’Grady recently wrote in the Daily Express under the headline, ‘Millions must work forever.’

A sense of proportion is important. Currently more than 90% of people over 65 are not in work and the majority are retired. Of those over 65 who want to work, most are concentrated in the 65-70 age bracket.

However as the state pension age rises, if finances become more difficult and if more employers create age friendly workplaces, we may see more people working much longer.

Nobody has a clear picture of how many pensioners would prefer to be in work. Not entitled to claim unemployment benefit or support from Jobcentre Plus, it seems once claiming the state pension, one is forgotten as a worker. Continue reading “Guest blog – Working beyond retirement age”

A means to many ends: experiences of flexible working

Being able to work flexibly can have a hugely positive impact on peoples’ work, and their personal lives too.

Today we’re launched our new report, A Means to Many Ends,  which looks at older workers’ experiences of flexible working, which looks at why 50+ workers want to use flexible working options, how they work in practice, and what barriers people typically face when they try to work flexibly.

What is flexible working?

Although it’s very difficult to define, it’s worth considering what we mean by flexible working. We see it as being a whole range of options, for example flexi-time, working from home or working a four-day week. But crucially it can only be considered flexible when  the individual either instigates changes or personally benefits.

The report finds that older workers want flexibility for a variety of reasons – for example, to meet caring responsibilities, wind down to retirement, or to manage a health condition.

Flexible working is usually very positive, enabling people to remain in employment and make ends meet, balancing personal commitments with work.

And all this is not to mention the benefits for their employers of retaining skilled staff, having a more committed and loyal workforce, or perhaps being able to mentor younger workers.

Despite the benefits too many employers still seem reluctant to even consider flexibility, which is bad news for both parties – to make sure that everyone who wants to work is able to do so, a culture change is needed, with renewed emphasis on the mutual benefits of flexible working.


There are, however, significant barriers to accessing flexible working.

Continue reading “A means to many ends: experiences of flexible working”

‘Missing’ older workers could boost UK

With the UK still mired in economic troubles and unemployment high, it is perhaps obvious that we need to get more people into work.

Among older people, who find it harder than any other age group in the UK to move into work, this needs to be a real priority, in particular when we look at how poorly Britain fares compared with our international competitors. We see that getting more people aged 50+ into work can be done.

According to some new research by the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank which focuses on people on low to middle incomes, the employment rate for 55-64 year olds in the UK lags well behind the best performing countries from around the world.

While the average of the 5 best performers is about 72%, the UK falls well short with only 57% in work. Continue reading “‘Missing’ older workers could boost UK”

Internet usability and older people

This guest blog was contributed by Seema Jain. Seema is a digital and web designer, and researcher, in Group Product Development within Engage Business Network (a part of Age UK which helps businesses better serve the needs of older people).

The internet is a huge part of most people’s lifestyle in the world today, and going by its development over the years, there will be a great deal more changes to come. These advances have even more of an effect for those who did not experience the growth of computing throughout the years and therefore are somewhat disengaged from its benefits.

Nearly 58% of people over 65 in theUK have never used the internet. Even for those who have, with access to the internet also growing into devises like smart phones and tablets, the connection between the product and its functions can be somewhat elusive to some. AgeUK is dedicated to improving digital literacy to older people.

When it comes to actually browsing the internet, I would like to think that web developers create websites to be straightforward to use by as many people as possible. However, when it comes to ‘novice’ and ‘non-confident’ users (which many over 65s are) this ‘ease of use’ may not be as easy as others believe. Research has found that even those creating websites with the user in mind still seem to neglect the over 60s in their considerations.

The older age group is equally if not even more diverse than younger age groups, and therefore their skills, physical and cognitive needs, and interests should be taken into account.

As with other users, older people’s experience or aptitude for the internet can be the factor in determining how successful their interactions are. For example, those users with limited experience using the internet such as carrying out one or two functions, like checking emails and looking for transport information, tend to find difficulties in searching around unfamiliar sites if the layout and menu organisation are not easy to follow.

On the other hand, as I found from research carried out with users, when a website is designed simply, offers a range of clear options for users to click through, and is not too text heavy, those with a lower aptitude can still successfully locate the information they require. Other features such as short cut links proved useful, but objects such as flashing or rolling images reels were regarded as confusing.

There are simple changes to layouts, style or just order that can be made to websites, which make navigating around unfamiliar sites much easier. Designers should keep the user and their needs, characteristics and wants at the centre of the design process.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs

Read more about our work on digital inclusion

The work well done

As the State Pension Age rises and people are being encouraged to work for longer, more and more employers (and the public too) are going to have to change their perceptions of older workers. Instead of believing the negative stereotypes and considering that older workers are likely to be less effective at certain jobs than their younger colleagues, perceptions need to change to recognise that each person is an individual with different skills and capabilities.

I came back from a short break in Catalonia, Spain, last week, where I learned about a common thread through the Catalonian culture: the ‘feina ben feta’ –or ‘work well done’.

I read about a local artistic movement by the turn of the last century which made of the quest for properly accomplished tasks one of its leitmotivs. In the park surrounding the monastery of Montserrat I came upon the monument to Joan Maragall, a poet, which includes the following call: “Strive in your endeavour as if the salvation of humanity depended upon each detail you think, each word you say, each piece you assemble, each blow of your hammer. Because it does depend on them, believe me”.

The following day I watched a programme on national TV about Teodoro Gómez. Mr Gómez takes the bus to work every morning. Nothing unusual here. He works at an industrial bakery set up by his grandfather –again, not uncommon for a long-standing family-run business. He weighs each baguette, for either the needle in the scale has to stop at 230 grams exactly or they are not sold. Well, a good example of ‘feina ben feta’ you might say, but still not much to make it on national TV.

One of his grandsons runs the ‘cakes and buns’ department and one of his granddaughters is in charge of one of the retail outlets. Grandson? Granddaughter? Oh, yes, for I forgot to mention that Teodoro is 100 years old. He still loves passing on his wealth of experience and expertise to the younger generations (some of his great-grandsons are already part of the staff). And not just his experience and expertise, but his values and work ethos too.

I came back from Spain with a whole new perspective of my own work. It goes beyond professionalism. It goes beyond doing proficiently what is expected. Señor Gómez is not from Catalonia, but he rolls his kneading pin as if human life as we know it depended on it.  I want to be part of his bunch.

Back in the UK, there are increasing numbers of people working past their State Pension Age. As pension values declines and the State Pension Age goes up, the longer-term trend will almost certainly be for more people to stay in work. Of course, most people won’t want to work until 100, but as we may have to work longer that expected it is essential to break down such negative stereotypes, especially that older workers will not perform as well.

Do you know of any British Teodoro’s? I would love to know about them, and perhaps they could even help Age UK to get this message across. What a privilege it would be to meet them.

Find out more about work and learning

Flexible working – the future of work?

The ability to work flexibly is becoming an increasingly important part of modern working life, especially for older workers.

Altering working patterns to meet personal commitments is, for many, essential to remaining in employment. This is especially true for those with family and caring responsibilities but still need to earn the wages from a full time job, or those who wish to wind down their careers.

And there are countless other examples of circumstances where individuals aged 50+ can benefit from altered working patterns.

So what actually is flexible working? Continue reading “Flexible working – the future of work?”