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Erik Richardson

Teacher, Richardson Ideaworks, Inc.


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How will you spend your time and/or make a living between ages 60 and 100?

As improved medicine and machinery continue to expand our lifespans in the developed world, the current model in which we work until age 65 +/- and then "retire" seems sadly outdated. New questions begin to arise, though, when we reflect on how we will each make a living and how we will make a life. I am excited to see what kind of ideas you all come up with.

One particular question related to the model is this: if someone goes back to school to re-tool for a whole new career at, say, 50, will they get hired into career-track positions where they could work for 20 years?


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  • Jul 2 2012: I am 60. I worked in universities as a lecturer for 11 years, then as a mental health researcher for 15 years. For 12 years I have been unable to get a full-time job, although I managed a few part-time ones until 5 years ago. I became so depressed that I am now not very suitable to work more than a few hours per day, but I have no work anyway. I have no superannuation or investments to live on & must depend on my defacto, which humiliates me no end. I haven't the faintest idea how I can exist until the end of this year, let alone until I am 100 [which is what I used to aim for as my father died at 95 of a congenital heart condition!]. I cannot see a future. Others live for their children & grand children but I've never had any due to physical health & circumstances. I enrolled in a Master of Public Health to get a new direction but no one wants to employ me. Even my supervisor says I probably won't work again, even though I am an excellent researcher & have published more than 20 papers. If I had the hope of getting a job as an older worker, I would gladly study anything as the prospect of being a checkout operator (all I have been offered) would make me suicide. I have really tried hard to take a new direction, I've done well in my studies & attacked my depression, made new friends & countless connections. However I cannot summon any hope nor "see" beyond the end of 2012. HELP!
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      Jul 2 2012: Kay

      You need one stable thing which is a job, take the checkout operator position. The work itself is cathartic and will help you.
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          Jul 7 2012: I'm not acting like anything.

          Kay was offered the job as checkout operator. I must be a moron?

          Question what does cathartic mean?
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      Jul 3 2012: I agree. Start small, and build your way back up. Being a checkout operator is as good a starting point as any, do well, show good work habits, promotion from there is the next small step. Before you know it, you'll have fresh experience under your belt, and that gives you leverage.
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      Jul 3 2012: Kay, dont work at the checkout, and dont lose heart. I know someone who picked himself up at your age after a marriage break up and is today a wealthy, successful businessman. He has a young wife and two young children to boot. I have another friend, female of the same age, who just completed her masters and is offered promotion after promotion at her work. My aunt fell in love at sixty two with a man 15 years her junior. They are married and still live together.

      Depression is crippling at whatever age it strikes. Change alone can bring on depression. Remember it is a condition, it is a feeling that can and will pass. Look for positive reinforcement among your friends. Those who do not know your strengths and want to tell you only about your weaknesses are not your friends. Dont listen to anyone who says you cannot get a job in your field. Why is that? You say you are good at it, then what is the problem? Employers PREFER younger staff? Aren't there laws against this kind of discrimanatory practice in your country? It is unethical, and probably illegal, if that has been happening to you. Fight back! An open letter to the paper exposing such practice would be a starting point.

      In the Institute where I am on the staff, two of my most valued colleagues on our teaching staff are well over sixty five. I dont even notice their age, why should I be interested in that? They are wise and respected teachers.

      I think Kay, perhaps you have a self perception problem? This you can change with reflection and meditation and by consciously deciding to believe in yourself again. When you change your own self perception, others will change theirs. Now get off TED have a nice cup of tea, a bit of a girlie makeover and go get a good job!
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      Jul 5 2012: Dear Kay,
      Your age should not be a burden, especially when you are convinced of your capabilities. My teacher, a Buddhist monk, is 65 and is still teaching at the university of Hong Kong (Centre of Buddhist Studies). There is also another professor who is in his 80s and still teaches.
      It seems so frustrating to hear of the society telling us what we cannot do. Aging is a fact of life, and the young people need to understand this. The fact that someone has aged does not make him/her unworthy of a life. He/she is still a part of this universe, of the inter-connectivity of life, and can still contribute, at least in some small ways.

      As to depression, I agree with Joanne that it "is crippling at whatever age it strikes." It cripples me also at times, although i'm still 22. But Kay, you have already journeyed a lot and know, perhaps, a lot more about life, about aging, relationship, etc, of which we young people might still be ignorant. And this seems a chance for you, if you find happiness in it, to educate the young world regarding aging, life, etc. You can find some people, young or old, and start a movement. Encourage people to study old-age, and I hope one day the subject can be incorporated in College or University syllabuses. (This is what I hope to do, after I can establish myself. I'm still financially dependent on others, so probably not now). It is just a suggestion, in case you have no other ways. It will keep you occupied and will probably generate deeper understanding of life. I have grown up hearing and learning that true understanding keeps the mind away from emotional agitation and thereby gives us happiness. (It is the purpose of meditation to generate understanding by developing the mind)

      Best Wishes!
    • Jul 13 2012: Kay,

      I worked at a supermarket as a checkout clerk once. At the time I was in my early 20s and had been unemployed for 9 months. My girlfriend’s parents were buying extra groceries to give to us so we could eat, and helping with the rent -- which injured my pride deeply. I had been fired from my last job after working there for 5 years, and as it was my only job experience I believed that no one had any reason to higher me. I was becoming more and more depressed about my situation everyday -- which was only making it worse.

      One day my girlfriend came to me and said that her mom knew someone at a supermarket and could get me hired as a clerk. I HATED the idea. I felt like it was a major step back, I couldn’t stand the thought of my friends seeing me there, and I felt like it was demeaning. But I also knew we needed money, and I could not say no. So I took the first step and said yes.

      I didn’t want to do it so badly, that I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to go through with it until after my interview was over. I kept thinking, “there has to be another way.” Still I continued to tell myself that it didn’t matter if there was another way, because taking this job wasn’t going to prevent me from doing that too. This was an opportunity I had to take, no matter how badly I didn’t want to do it.

      It was actually pretty fun :-) I got to talk to people of all ages about so many different things, It gave me the ability to get back on my feet and stop relying on my girlfriends parents (a big relief), and most importantly it got me walking out the door every day :-) So, just remember, if what you’re doing hasn’t solved the problem yet, then you need to just get up and take the opportunity that you have. It won’t prevent you from continuing to think of something you would rather do more, and taking other opportunities that may come along. But it will get you back on your feet.

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