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In 2019, BBC Radio 4 celebrated the fact that the long-standing actress playing Peggy Archer was still working in her 100th year. The famous matriarch in The Archers continues to feature in the story line while being played an actress several years older.
Can you imagine a future where you are working in your 100th year?
It might seem impossible to you. But increasingly you can live longer and stay fitter later. You can take advantage of all sorts of aids and devices to extend your capability. As aspects of your physical function or your stamina diminish, you can use technology to continue to offer your skills, knowledge and experience into your 90’s and beyond.
The only way that you can prepare for that possibility (and you might find it rewarding and enjoyable when the time comes) is to establish a workstyle that has enough flexibility so that, bit by bit, you can do more of the things that you love and love more of the things that you do. Bit by bit, you can work with those people who really value what you bring and spend less time with those people who do not.
Working to death?
In many areas of life you can work late into your twilight years. Judges in the supreme court in the USA never retire (or, at least, are never required to retire). Members of the House of Lords in the UK are members until death. Many authors continue to produce new works into the later parts of their lives. (Ghost writers can extend publication beyond the grave!). Famously, Pimlico Plumbers in London regularly celebrate members of their team who are still working in their 80’s. Even UK equality law protects you from being sacked (or forced to retire) simply on the grounds of age.
But you need to set up your working life long before to make this possible. You need to build in flexibility sooner rather than later. You also need to move towards offering more wisdom and less action. I recommend you spend more of your time ensuring that the right things are done and things are done right. No longer are you getting a lot done yourself. A non-executive portfolio can offer these kinds of trusted advisor role. However, I am seeing repeatedly that to become a non-executive you need to transition through a portfolio of other roles, often a portfolio of executive director roles.
Imagine work at 70
Think about what you would love to do in your 70s and whether doing some rewarding and enjoyable work is going to be part of your lifestyle. Now consider what it might mean to ensure that you can extended this into your 80’s and beyond.
Working when you are 100? It might seem a long shot now when you are in your 40’s and 50’s but just look around the world and see the number of people that are actively contributing to society into their 90’s. Not such a long shot after all.
The future is old
In a recent interview, Dr Sarah Harper, Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, said “there is not a lot in the modern workplace that 70-year olds couldn’t cope with today. 80-year olds may be more varied in their capacity but that will change. Robots will work alongside humans making physical demanding tasks obsolete, while working patterns will be less regimented, instead fitting around lifestyles and family time.”
In March 2017, The Telegraph reported on Dr Bill Frankland who is still working as a medical doctor at the age of 105. He has received two cards from the Queen and still drinks alcohol. He even requires a secretary to run his busy diary.
So, it is not just Peggy Archer who can carry on working at the age of 100.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.