Friday Reflection: Wisdom of older Australians often undervalued

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YourLifeChoices recently published an article that focused on the positives of ageing populations. It told how the International Longevity Centre (ILC) is urging governments around the world to better support older people to work, spend, care and volunteer, arguing that research shows older people’s unpaid contributions strengthen communities and underpin the formal economy.

The article prompted YourLifeChoices member Tony to write a Friday Reflection. But first a bit about Tony. He says: “After managing international manufacturing businesses for most of my life I then spent years as a senior trade diplomat and was posted to Eastern Europe immediately after the fall of communism. I spent nine years living in and covering the 16 ex-communist countries from the Baltic to the Balkans tying up export business for Australian companies. When I returned to Australia with a mass of unique knowledge and experience, I was put in charge of government property management. What an incredible waste. My wife (an ex-teacher) and I are now retired on a few acres on the NSW North Coast where we built our dream house and I indulge myself in my original passions of farming and mechanical engineering. I did approach our local council when we moved here and offered to help set up a mentoring service of retired business people (free of charge) to mentor struggling local businesses and young entrepreneurs. Sorry, no interest.”


The whole community and governments totally undervalue the combined knowledge, experience, wisdom and patience that older people could bring to solving many of the country’s problems.

In our culture, as soon as anyone is ‘old’, their views and experience are devalued at immense loss of opportunity to the community. Just take education at its various levels. We have thousands of children leaving school each year unable to get into the workforce just because they can’t read, write and do basic mathematics. Teachers are unable to give individual attention but surely bringing in retired workers who, after some basic training, could provide coaching to small groups, would be a great investment.

Similarly trade and other skills, some of which we losing, where TAFEs are unavailable or inadequate, retired workers could fill a gap.

Retired business people could mentor young inventors and entrepreneurs to help improve their business success. Even some young mothers and fathers seem to lack basic domestic and survival skills today. We have billions of dollars’ worth of accumulated skills, knowledge and experience that is being wasted – much of it would be available at little or no cost.

Why are we bringing in people from overseas to fill jobs that we can’t do, yet we have a mass of young unemployable people who, just because they lack the skills, we have decided to ignore and discard? Surely we are smart enough to do better than this?

Do you agree with Tony?

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Written by Tony


Total Comments: 11
  1. 0

    Seems to me that when you are older you not only have the wisdom you have collected on a personal scale but also the collective wisdom of what you have seen happen to others. And lets face it, once you see the same old pattern of behaviour time and again it’s not hard to give some good advice on how to avoid it. Then again there is value in learning the hard way.

    • 0

      Unfortunately Snowflake, no matter how hard you try, you cannot put an old head on young shoulders. I’ve tried and failed. Experience is a hard teacher but you do not forget her lessons.

  2. 0

    When I retired I, along with some other mothers and retired persons, volunteered at our local school, listening to kids read aloud (apparently parents today are too busy to listen to their kids read) and sometimes helping kids with maths and spelling. I loved it. Even today I see young teenagers around my suburb who remember me and say hello. However a new principal arrived and all volunteers were politely told our services were no longer required. We were replaced by paid teachers assistants.

  3. 0

    Not every old person has the wisdom to solve any problem but overall it has been proven that the acquired wisdom gained over many decades is a wasted resource.At an individua level many will volunteer their services for the community.But overall the opportunity to expand the benefit these people could provide has been lost to government.Not enough votes in it I guess

  4. 0

    They don’t want oldies because we know too much. We threaten them with inadequacy so they denigrate and sideline us. At least that’s my theory.

  5. 0

    Couldn’t agree more. I have had a similar experience after offering to mentor senior school students (I am an ex-teacher who marked the HSC in 3 subjects). No interest. In fact the first change I noticed after retiring was that no one ever came to me asking for advice. Previously that happened almost daily.

  6. 0

    Experience is the result of making mistakes. I have clearly made a lot of mistakes.
    How tragic it is to watch our younger folk make the same mistakes, over and over.

    On the other side, our younger folk have grown up after being taught by US. Their new methods and assets (eg computers, Net etc) make some of our older ways outmoded. We have to accept “moving on”.

    It is the life experience we have, not necessarily the technical, method or knowledge experience that the young have not got. It is known as WISDOM, and cannot be taught. We use our experience, they use their knowledge. What a shame we can’t combine the two.

  7. 0

    older workers are better value than younger people as they have a stable employment history and experience to do the job Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts are unfit to be in the senate as they put older workers under the bus she was first elected as the federal member for oxley(Qld) as a Liberal she and her one nation party are useless and must go

  8. 0

    Forget about bringing skilled migrants from overseas when some mature age workers who want to work can do the job Australian Jobs are not for 457 visa workers

  9. 0

    Could not agree more. There is so much untapped talent out there, especially from newly retiring people who are really keen to give back to the community and willing and able to offer their numerous talents and skills for no no cost to the community.

  10. 0

    I always say :

    The wise person learns from a fool but a fool learns from no one

    (You are never too young OR old to learn)



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