|Description: ||Business and Society Should Be Mindful of The Need to Help Us All Lead Fulfilling, Longer Lives.
Average life expectancy in the UK has risen significantly over the last two centuries. Our increased longevity is a fantastic success story of human ingenuity in areas like public health, nutrition and medical science.
But much of how we structure and organise society is no longer suited to support people with 80, 90 or 100 year-long lives, further complicated by the growing gap in healthy life expectancy between the rich and poor.
In previous generations, the traditional path of life followed a relatively simple pattern of education first, then on to working and perhaps raising a family, and ending in retirement. But as we live for longer, how long we work for, the jobs we do, how and when we learn and acquire new skills, and how and when we care for others, needs to change.
We need employers and public policy to help navigate these more complex, flexible lives. But although the future has always been uncertain, the burden on individuals of that uncertainty is now more pronounced than ever.
With the disappearance of defined benefit pensions, people rather than governments and corporations are expected to take the lead in securing their future. What’s more, lower home ownership among younger generations means they will not benefit from the safety net of rising house prices, which has helped many nearing retirement today.
The UK continues to lag behind other countries in our investment in adult skills and learning to support people to reskill and retrain throughout their lives.
Reforms in recent years – such as pension auto enrolment, banning the default retirement age, the right to request flexible work and the promise of a cap on high social care costs – are worthwhile measures. But they do not yet go far enough.
If we are to help people lead better, fulfilling longer lives, there is an urgent need for radical reconsideration of how we learn, earn and live. We need to fundamentally re-imagine society for longer lives.
Catherine Foot is a research and policy expert in ageing and longevity, bringing over 20 years of experience in the field. From 2015 to 2021, she was Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better. Catherine was appointed as the Director of Phoenix Insights in June 2021. She has also held senior roles with The King’s Fund and Cancer Research UK. Catherine holds degrees from University of Cambridge and University College London.