Guest Post by Juliette Davodeau, International Federation of Ageing
Before starting my internship with the IFA, I was asked a few times “are older people really the most at need?” This question is one of the reasons that really motivated me to join the IFA. Indeed, in France anyways, the living conditions of older people are too often disregarded. While some older people, especially those in industrialized countries, manage to have a healthy life with decent income security, many of them still struggle to make ends meet, and have to remain active within the labour market longer that they may desire.
This appears to me as a major concern, as ‘active ageing’ should not be about working extra hours in order to pay rent, but really to enjoy some well-deserved free time and social activities after a life of labour. Older people have a lot to bring to our societies besides contributing to the workforce. Unfortunately, many cannot afford leaving it to pursue other activities, and contribute in other more meaningful ways. This is a real shortfall for everyone.
That being said, it is paradoxically more complicated for some older people to find a job when they need one. In France for example, many employers do not really consider hiring someone older, fearing that they would be slower at work, or less efficient.
In an attempt to offset these preconceived ideas, the “generation contract” is a new feature of the French labour market, allowing small companies to receive an allowance if they hire a young professional aged under 26 in a permanent contract, while keep employing a person aged over 57. It is supposed to encourage the employment rate among older people, and is just starting to show the benefits amongst smaller companies; however it appears much harder to establish this initiative in larger companies. There is still much to do to improve the quality of life for older people inside and outside the workforce.
These initiatives create intergenerational relations broadening the opportunity of knowledge transfers, skills exchanges, and society strengthening in the workplace. Everyone benefits from a multigenerational society, thus everyone should feel related to the current ageing issues, and not only the older people.
Finally, we all must recognise that ageing starts at birth and we are all going to be labeled old someday, even if it seems far away for those of us wearing the youth label. This is why it seems really important to me, as a young professional to care about this issue and, in my opinion, everybody – regardless of one’s age – should be aware of the issues, needs and opportunities that the future holds for us all.
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Written By Ms. Juliette Davodeau
Project Officer, IFA
November 8, 2013