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?

Friday Reflection is your chance to write on any topic that stirs you. Simply send your contribution to [email protected] and put Friday Reflection in the subject field. The editor will select one offering to run each week and the writer will receive a $20 gift voucher.

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Written by Tony



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