Longevity Leaps Into Mainstream
Or Drinking from a Hosepipe
When I got back from a year away at Harvard in January, I had a good idea of what I wanted to focus on. But little did I know how quickly this would hit the zeitgeist and light a fire of opportunity and a wave of interesting people reaching out in my inbox (and on LinkedIn, an amazing and powerful platform that just keeps delivering). It’s not even the end of Q1, and I have met so many interesting people and ideas that a weekly recount and a regular column in FORBES is hardly enough to keep up. But here’s trying. This may be a bit longer than you want to read, but make sure you get to the end, that’s where my really BIG news is.
WOW! Tell me More…
What’s so engaging about the topic of longevity and generational balance is that it concerns… everyone. In every country, company, and couple. At every age and stage. Just like my last 20 years on gender balance, which also affected every man, woman and child on the planet (and lit up every dinner party, much to (both) my husbands’ fatigued chagrin). All you need to do is bring the subject of ageing, work and demographics up, and suddenly people are engaged and interested.
Because it concerns all of us - our careers and families, as well as our own organisations. Half the people I talk to are over 50 and they are experiencing something already that they may not have put a name to. The other are under 50 and are fascinated how this longer runway impacts their own thinking and planning. You literally watch the lightbulbs and connectomes (this week’s new word, thanks The Economist) firing up. Here’s a brush through some of this week’s conversations.
During a busy International Women’s Day week, one of my favourite events was speaking to my kinda people: a few hundred international INSEAD alumni who signed up for a Lifelong Learning session entitled Thriving To 100 (sharing the content from my latest graphic e-book). These alumni (of which I am one, dated ‘84D!) were from all over the world, and ranged in age from their 30s to 70s. This is part of my push to get more universities (and especially business schools) to get age on the agenda. The questions and engagement rained fast and furious. My takeaways from the discussion:
Those in Q2 wanted to know how a 4-Quarter perspective on life could help them better manage the impossibility of work/ family balance and choices and pacing longer, 60-year careers, finances and couples.
Those in Q3 were intrigued to learn that such a phase even existed, and that they might want to take a bit of time to learn about and plan the transition into their next chapters.
Those running companies were curious what companies were up to in this space, how to think about generational balance on both the talent and the market side (start by measuring it!). One wrote me after, saying he would start recruiting older people intentionally.
Those working for companies wanted to know how ageism in the workplace affects career prospects after 50, and how to get employers to recognise and embrace all these new demographic realities. The answer: it’s gonna take time - just like gender balance is.
We could have gone on for much longer. And we will, we’ll be following up with workshops to address all these themes over the coming year.
Generations Over Dinner
I hosted another Generations Over Dinner, this one organised with my young Substack writer friend Charlie Rogers. He brought three amazing (and amazingly ambitious) young folk in their 20s (including a young woman who wins Ironmans, and a startup founder of Kitt Medical, a company supplying the equivalent of defibrillators, but for allergies). I invited a couple in their 40s and my husband and I chimed in as 60s voices. The theme was ‘What does career success mean to you?’ It was so deep, meaningful and engaging that we’ve decided to record future events and will see if we can share them. In the meantime, Charlie did a summary of some of his key takeaways, of which my favourite was his realisation that “in a world where it's easy to see those older or younger than ourselves as naïve or out of touch, these are conversations that NEED to happen. Because we're more similar than we think we are. All it needs is a conversation.”
This resonates with the 4-Quarter Lives podcast I recorded this week with Stanford professor Roberta Katz about her book Gen Z Explained. Great book for getting behind the sensational headlines about generational warfare, and learning to understand the real differences and similarities with the future folk now rising. More on that soon.
Movers & Shakers
I’ve been looking for partners and colleagues with whom to work over the next decade and discovering a wealth of great minds and innovative ideas. And, typical of the way the world works, most of the people below reached out to me after hearing me speak or reading something I (liberally) put out and about what I’m learning about ageing. As I’m always telling my coaching clients, take a step towards the future you dream of, and it will rush to me you halfway.
I’ll be writing, interviewing and working with some of my new-found discoveries and old favourites over the coming months.
NICA - National Innovation Centre Ageing
NICA, and its Director Nic Palmerini (former Head of AI for Healthy Ageing at IBM Research) is like a huge splash of refreshing lemonade in a sea of often rather drab and dire longevity folk. A million miles from the dour predictions of the many, NICA is designing a proactive push into a more generationally balanced future. Just read their Manifesto to see what I mean. They aren’t doing it alone, nor in an ‘old’ vacuum. With their sister organisation VOICE, run by Lynne Corner, they are co-creating it with thousands of citizens of all ages, as well as stakeholders, startups, companies and governments. The website is hip, the language new and vital, and later this month I’ll be publishing Lynne and Nic’s 10 Steps to Preparing for the 2nd Billion.
Global Drucker Forum
My favourite management conference is the Global Peter Drucker Forum, now in its 15th year. This year’s theme is Creative Resilience: Leading in An Age of Discontinuity. I’ve been a fan and a speaker since its inception in Vienna. This year, at the glorious Hofburg Palace. It has always been a very gender balanced approach to reuniting academics, practitioners and thought leaders. I’ve agreed to be an Ambassador for the conference so will be out looking for some of the best and brightest ideas on my favourite theme. I’m delighted to be able to help put longevity on the management thinking agenda. Especially since Peter Drucker was one of the earliest voices predicting that ageing and demographics would have a huge impact on talent management and companies. Do join us. If you or your company is interested in sponsoring panels or speakers on longevity, do reach out to me.
Insurance company Phoenix has a department thinking about future trends and the Great (un)Retirement. See the report they just published this past week, called Beyond the great retirement: Understanding and tackling economic inactivity amongst the over 50s. Catherine Foot who runs the Insights team and I had a no-holds-barred conversation about what exactly people would most need to transition into Q3 most constructively. What, we were exploring, is ‘it’ and who should be providing it? With the UK government announcing its plans this coming week, this is a hot topic. In the meantime, I’m joining the ‘Midlife Career Coalition’ she is pulling together to start designing solutions and an open forum Phoenix is organising May 19th called ‘Postcards From Midlife.’ More on all that soon.
The founder and CEO of this startup, Lyndsey Simpson, is my favourite kind of woman. Whipper-snapper smart, energetic and earth-moving. In just a couple of years, she’s launched one of the smarter approaches I’ve seen to helping companies and individuals with the longevity topic. Next week, I’ll publish a FORBES profile of her and her fast-taking-off firm. She’s got funding, big ideas and is already heading off to the US after a strong start in the UK. If you are 50+ and looking for work, they’ve got a jobs platform (Jobs Redefined) and a community platform (Life Redefined). If your company is interested in getting to grips with the big demographic shift at hand, she also does B2B consulting at Work Redefined. It’s smart, sharp and simple. And don’t miss her cool video, Dance Like Everyone’s Watching on rebranding the older. 55Redefined.co.
I got a call from Dave Smallwood who runs a startup with a service I’ve been dreaming of for a long time. It’s an online platform that helps facilitate job sharing, either within a single company or across companies. Initially always talked about for moms and women, the insight is that men want this just as much. Proven by the fact that the majority of their users are men. Dave started the venture with his wife, in what I call a Duet, as they discovered they couldn’t both keep up their hot-shot careers and have the kids they wanted - at least not at the same time and sustainably. He was determined his wife would not be forced to step back to support his work. Like the podcast I did with two other men in their 40s stepping back career wise to lean in to parenting, I think you’ll hear much of this sort of thing in the future. And about Roleshare. Again, it’s got funding, and legs.
The Really Big Thing
So, sounds like I have a few things on, right? But this hides the reality that what dominated my week wasn’t the search for purpose, colleagues and a new career phase. Nor was it a focus on the old. It was actually much bigger, and younger: the search for a new puppy. Which is not anywhere as easy or straightforward as you might think.
First, I applied to Battersea Dogs & Cats home to see if I could find a puppy to adopt. There was lovely little Muffin, but she was obviously so over-solicited that I didn’t even get an answer to my query and voice message. Most of the dogs needing homes are way bigger than we can manage. So I went shopping instead, and fell in love with this little gal:
But then, once we’d traipsed out to Essex, we discovered her papers were garbage, which meant we were probably getting involved in one of those horrible puppy scams that is supposedly the source of one third of new puppies sold in the UK. (Not helped by her owners flash cars and the fact we couldn’t see the whole litter). I went hunting again, and found two pups de bonne famille. My heart melted all over again, for her:
But just a minute ago, as I was typing away, I got a text message that she’s just been sold to someone else! Her face expresses almost exactly what I feel like.
Oh well, I’ve just finished a book by Tosha Silver called Outrageous Openness. Not my usual sort of reading, but I picked it off the shelf the other day for some reason. It is a delightful read, by a Yale-educated Jewish astrologer. She preaches a Buddhist-like openness to reading (and accepting) that the universe and God have their plans for you. As a committed atheist, I find this stuff hard to swallow, along with friends’ comments of the ‘it was meant to be’ ilk. But the book is charmingly written and I totally subscribe to its suggestion of unattachment to outcomes. She insists that if you are open to watching for signs, and not fighting against them, your future will meet you where - and when - you are ready.
So this Sunday morning, I’m off to meet my 3rd puppy. Her papers are perfect, even if her dad’s nose is a bit more pug than I (or her ability to breathe) personally appreciate. Her owner sounds a rational, easy-going sort (more than I can say of the others). And she’s grown up a short drive from our Somerset barn. All the signs are good.
She must be the one. But no photos. Until I’m sure. My old heart can’t take it.
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