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Motivate retirees into academic research - don't let all the wisdom go waste!

People retire - some want to and some are forced to. Depending on an individual's social-physical-economic circumstances, longevity casts varied impacts on self and others.

One thing is sure - there is a lot of accumulated learning and wisdom, and majority of it goes untapped. What a waste of such a fantastic resource...!

In what ways could society motivate willing retirees to continue to contribute actively?

Why does society stop expecting game changing ideas and contributions from experienced individuals? This can't be right, dad!

  • Oct 30 2011: Yesterday I was sitting next to a retired person on a flight who basically said he was so busy as a retired person that he now wished he had a regular job so he can rest a little. He has mining/instrumentation background and keeps getting called in for consulting gigs. Then he spends time with his grandkids and helps out with habitat for humanity, church, etc. In my opinion the issue is one of motivation and rewards. If retirees see an acceptable reward system while giving them the flexibility to address other priorities in their lives, I believe that they will happily contribute.
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    Oct 28 2011: I agree! A wonderful idea!

    There are countless possibilities if organizations, institutions and corporations made a concerted effort to recruit that population.
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    Oct 28 2011: This is a great idea and I would be delighted to have an opportunity to participate. I would extend it though to most major fields. Retired detectives and police officers could work to solve cold crimes, retired medical professionals could evaluate new hospital procedures, products and techniques etc. etc.
  • Oct 28 2011: I am a retiree, thanks to health issues, but that doesn't mean my brain has died. Would I enjoy being a part of some form of research/think tank? Yes! Are there other retirees that feel the same as I ? Yes! Do some of us get together, via internet, & exchange ideas on various issues? Yes! Have some of us seen through the mud & come up with wonderful answers to various issues facing the world today? Yes! The problems facing us are: No one listens to are wisdom because we are no longer employed, we're over the hill, even the answers are too simple. Answers don't always need to be complex.
    TED helps some but those with great ideas & or answers never reach those who could benefit from them.
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      Oct 28 2011: Your every word resonates, that's why I started this discussion. My dad, now 73, a successful self employed professional for last 48 years, is in the process of forced retirement due to family circumstances. I feel it every day.

      And you are right, we have to find ways to tap into the accumulated wisdom, and not necessarily into the physical skills.

      How do we begin something very simple and tangible? I want to make it actionable, now.
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    Oct 27 2011: So I see four key issues mentioned: a) Senior's health liability obligations in the research workplace, b) lack of certain senior's knack for academics, c) relevancy and accessibility of the research to the invited senior, and d) limiting the scope to academics alone and not extending to all commercial space.

    And we all agree that actively tapping into retirees expertise pool is a good idea.

    Now let's brainstorm how the four issues we have identified could be resolved? Also, let's think of few basic actions items that we can take up to test this idea. An example will be: how about we create a social exchange circles through facebook and google+ and invite retirees to briefly write about their expertise, availability, and research interest. And then we ask Academia to bounce off some challenges...

  • Oct 27 2011: I agree there should be opportunities for knowledge transfer from retirees. However the current structure does lack supporting this system due to many reasons and biggest one is injuries and health reason. One is not allowed in certain premises because others are feared that something can happen and they will be held liable. Volunteering for senior citizens is also limited to few places. Many opportunity can be created for such knowledge transfers if laws can be changed to support (remove) some liabilities for retirees who want to share their knowledge and wisdom at free of cost. Such changes would benefit elder generation and younger generation.
  • Oct 27 2011: Research in some fields might be a bit tedious, but you are right about a a wasted resource. I would argue that after 30 years in any career, there should be opportunities for transfer of knowledge, mentoring and training. Instead they face down-sizing, pay limits, and the frustration of knowing that the same jobs could often be done more efficiently if politics were taken out of the equation.
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    Oct 26 2011: Why academic research? Why not allow all that experience to be used in normal economic activities?
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      Oct 26 2011: Agree. Ideally people should be allowed to work till the day they can. The entire notion of forced retirement came into play during recession.

      Given the situation we are in, drawing experienced heads into research seems more feasible and doable at first.
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        Oct 26 2011: But how do you make that research relevant and accessible, and how do you make non-retired people seek it out and use it?
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    Oct 26 2011: This is the exact kind of thinking that I am challenging....

    When bright people suggest to my dad how he could pass his time productively through volunteering, blogging and many such ways - there are implicit assumptions/messages that I'm arguing are not right. You are basically conveying with nice and respectful euphemism: hey dad, your turn is over - make the place for younger generations - impart your wisdom when asked.

    I'm saying, rather invite dad to help in academic research - music, arts, history, engineering, basic sciences, law, computers, genetics, literature - where ever a new perspective is needed. Don't stereotype academic research to TR-35 or Ivory towers. Don't contain academic research to some degree, or some job or start-up at the end. Who else other than retirees and rich could be in a better position to research without the need of a job at the end?
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      Oct 27 2011: There's an assumption that retirees don't need a job! Quite a number of retirees didn't have the choice about retiring and would like to have the opportunity to continue exercise their experience in a real job. They have chosen to exercise their skills in a practical rather than an academic way and may want to keep doing that, or may need to keep doing it for financial reasons. Retirees aren't a homogenous group, they are individuals each with their own needs, abilities and preferences. Some may want to take an academic route, and that should be as open to them as to people of any age. But they shouldn't be forced out of the commercial world.
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    Oct 26 2011: I firmly agree that wisdom in our elders is something that should be available to the world more.

    The wisdom of our elders is something that cannot be taught or organized. You cant preach wisdom. wisdom is something that comes from your words when you speak, always. It is up to you as a retiree to employ these efforts to make sure your words are wise enough to influence younger generations and those in need of encouragement and or hope. It is a matter of reaching out, by volunteering through many means to express your words to people who would benefit from your wisdom most. Some volunteers help homeless, or animals in shelters. Some help their church. You can even go to a YMCA and be a mentor. You can do all kinds of things to reach out to people and spread your wisdom. Even blogging to an online audience or through radio. Find ways to be heard, and make sure you have some wise things to say. You would be amazed if you could actually see the number of people you will effect in the long run.

    It is proven in history that wisdom from our elders is something that has always been sought for by youth and other troubled people and is essential to learning and maturing in younger and troubled minds.
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      Oct 26 2011: But if you want to make that wisdom available in the world, you need to keep it in the world, not academia. As soon as you corral one group of people and isolate them fom the mainstream, you undermine their relevance and make it easy to ignore or undervalue them.

      In today's world there isn't an effective patriarchal model whereby those with grey hair exist for the purpose of looking after other adults who don't yet have grey hair. Effective influencing and mentoring happens when there are common interests and two way dialogues, and to achieve that you need shared space. You also need the non-grey-haired adults to make their own decisions about wanting to learn and choosing who to learn from.

      The patriarchal model, to the extent that it does exist today is one of experience, not age. An recognised expert may be a good mentor but they don't have to be old.