The new old age

Are older workers a drain on the economy and society? Far from it, says a new study.

Far from being a burden on society, older people are major contributors to the economic and cultural well being of their countries, according to the third annual HSBC Future of Retirement study.

The project, conducted with Oxford University’s Institute of Ageing, surveyed 21,000 people in 21 countries and territories. People interviewed were between the ages of 40 and 79.

The study, the largest of its kind, dispels the myth that older people are a drain on the economy and society. In fact, people in their 60s and 70s continue to contribute economically not only through taxation, but volunteer work and the care of family members.

And this contribution is enormous. Sarah Harper, director of the Oxford Institute of Ageing, said the research showed that people aged between 60 and 79 contribute £5.5 billion each year in tax revenue, £4.2 billion in volunteer work and over £50 billion in family care – in Great Britain alone.

In this country, older people contribute $2.2 billion in income tax and $3.1 billion in voluntary work.

“In Canada, we find a picture of health, control and quality of life during later life,” the HSBC report says. “Those aged 50 to 80 are healthier, happier and fitter than ever before. Older people are incredibly active, positive, contributory adults, without whom our families, communities and our work places, could not flourish.”

And globally, more older people provide financial and practical support – and in some cases, even personal care – than receive it. For instance, 16 per cent of people in their 60s and nearly one-third of those in their 70s provide financial support to their grandchildren.

“We are living longer and, in many societies, living better than ever,” said Stephen Green, Group Chairman of HSBC. “This should be a cause for celebration, but recognition of this achievement is too often buried beneath concern over the funding of retirement. This unique study shows that we should not allow such fears to obscure the enormous contribution that those over 60 make to all of our lives.”

The changing face of retirement
Across the globe, more people over the age of 60 are staying in the workforce. In mature economies, 20 per cent to 50 per cent of people 60+ are still working.

With the exception of Germany, the trend toward early retirement is declining, researchers say. Further, seven out of ten workers worldwide say they expect to keep working because they want to.

In Russia, India, the Philippines and South Korea, however, there is a strong feeling that individuals have to work longer than they would prefer.

70 is the new 50
People are staying healthier longer. In fact, the study found that people the world over are able to enjoy the same health at 70 that previous generations experienced at 50.

The findings reveal Canada as one of the healthiest countries in the world. 76 per cent of the 70-79 year olds and 92 per cent of the 40-49 year olds feel in good or very good health. In the UK, 73 per cent of people in their 70s report good health and in the United States, 72 per cent.