Build culture of respect for older workers

In last Monday's report ("Greying Japan's big silver workforce"), 104-year-old Fukutaro Fukui, who retired only three years ago, said: "It does not matter what we achieved or if we were promoted. I have worked just because it is my instinct."

As Singapore faces the challenge of a greying resident population, perhaps it is time to nurture a more achievable and sustainable mindset among our population to see work as not just a means to an end, but also a way to keep us meaningfully engaged in society.

Without a doubt, Japan's culture of respect for the elderly plays an important role in keeping older workers in the workplace.

This is something we could study further and possibly emulate.

We may need to consider if ageism will impede our desire to move closer to this vision of older workers remaining productive in the economy, and what measures we could take to move towards a mindset of mutual respect and collaboration in a multi-generational workforce.

We could build a positive culture of respect for older workers in our workforce, and a conducive working environment, regardless of age.

This may include giving older workers assistance to reskill and accept jobs at a lower pay or position.

We should also change the mindsets of younger workers towards older workers, so that the former see the latter as valuable contributors to a vibrant workforce.

Perhaps we can consider raising the retirement age or even scrapping it altogether.

With medical advances and higher life expectancy, more older workers may choose to remain as regular full-time employees and augment the workforce with their skills and experience.

We can all benefit from focusing on the intrinsic value of being economically active, and help shape society's attitudes towards older workers by developing a more enlightened view of workplace success.

Low Poh Lyn (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline 'Build culture of respect for older workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe