How long does a person's understanding grow

Should people work as long as they can?

01.06.2017Positioning magazine

At 65, people retire from work, no matter how fit they feel. But if the compulsion to retire is lifted, a new question arises: Is there a biological limit for work?

Group leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Aging in Cologne

Human life expectancy has increased rapidly over the past 170 years. It grew by an average of three months a year! This medical, social and technological achievement shapes our lifestyle and our individual life planning. Increased life expectancy is not only associated with a prolonged period of being old. Rather, all phases of life are lengthened, one could speak of a decoupling of biological and actual age. Aging research observes considerable differences in the aging process: some people are old at 60 and are susceptible to diseases, at the same time there are more and more people who are healthy over 100 years old. Research also shows that changes in individual genes can significantly extend the life expectancy of animals. This speaks for a new understanding of aging: It is not an undirected loss of function, but a process that runs in a coordinated manner and can possibly be actively slowed down in the future. It is to be expected that the average human life expectancy will continue to increase. This presents our society with major challenges that we have to deal with flexibly.

As life expectancy increases, so does the phase in life in which people can and want to work. This should be recognized and implemented by politicians. Of course, this should take individual situations into account: employees in very physically demanding jobs cannot of course work well into old age. Other professions, however, can be practiced for longer. A very simple solution: It should be left to the people themselves how long they want and can work.

Managing Director of the non-profit consultancy berufundfamilie in Frankfurt / Main

German companies are threatened with the loss of manpower and know-how if around 20 million people reach retirement age by 2030 and there is a lack of offspring. Employers are challenged to find solutions. These do not consist in asking skilled workers to work full-time for longer periods. If you ask around from those affected, not even a third of them (28 percent) would like to remain fully employed until the current statutory retirement age. This is a result of the berufundfamilie survey “Work and Age”.

However, more than half of all employees (56 percent) would be happy about a flexible transition into retirement. So it is the conditions with which work stands or falls in old age. The credo is not “hard work on the job”, but rather the meaningful and age-appropriate use of potential. Because as the age of the employees increases, so does the diversity in productivity. Many can well imagine reducing their working hours from the age of 50 in order to invest them in time for family or social engagement. In return, they are often more open to contributing their know-how to the company on a part-time basis or as a mentor for the offspring, even after they have retired.

In short: for many employees, employment may already be part of old age. However, there must be scope in terms of form and scope in order to do justice to individual life plans and plans. The gradual reduction in employment should and must be possible. And even those who want to enjoy their old age completely without gainful employment should have the opportunity to do so - without a bad conscience.