Study， Work， Retire？How to Prepare for a 100-Year Life
Eoghan Macguire 奥恩·麦圭尔
The number of people who live to 100 may be relatively small， but it's becoming more common -particularly in countries like Japan， which has the highest proportion of centenarians in the world.
As a result， policymakers in Japan have begun to look at how to cater to those who make it to the 100 club - and what they find could be of use to the rest of the world in the years to come.
Over the past year， Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has led a series of meetings at the Council for Designing 100-year Life Society， an expert group set up to prepare for a rise in the number of centenarians.
While living longer is usually a positive， it inevitably creates a number of practical challenges， such as the burden on the state to provide services， pensions and care for an increased number of elderly people. In Japan， this is compounded by a low birth rate， which means there are fewer people of working age to pay for services for the elderly through taxes or work for Japanese companies.
Among those to attend early meetings of Abe's council was Lynda Gratton， professor of management practice at London Business School and co-author of the book “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.”
When addressing this issue of aging populations，she says， it's important that governments and businesses “tell a story” about how people can begin to live “multistage lives” in which they are able to take career breaks and work longer and across numerous fields. This “narrative” will help signal the challenges ahead and encourage the conversation on what life in aging societies will look like， Gratton adds.
The Japanese government has proposed extending the mandatory retirement age for civil servants from 60 to 65. It has also spoken of encouraging “recurrent education，” helping people retrain throughout their careers， as well as enabling those who want to work into the later years to do so.
Professor Hiroko Akiyama of the University of Tokyo's Institute of Gerontology believes these are welcome developments but says the pace of change needs to be faster.
Akiyama points to how job-sharing， flexible working patterns and telecommuting can all play a part in helping more people stay in the workplace longer. The likes of artificial intelligence and robotics， far from reducing job opportunities， can also help seniors work longer by compensating for qualities that people may lose as they get older， such as strength or flexibility， she adds.
Japan has been one of the most visible nations in addressing these challenges but is far from alone in being affected by them.The global population of older persons （those 60 or older） numbered 962 million in 2017， according to the UN World Population Ageing report. That's more than twice as many as in 1980， when there were 382 million older persons worldwide， and the number is expected to double again by 2050， to nearly 2.1 billion.
Yet there could also be opportunity within the challenges of an aging society.Businesses in Japan have begun to open fitness clubs that cater to the elderly while robot carers have been introduced to nursing homes，high-value devices that could become lucrative exports.
Gratton says Japan is at the forefront of developing robotics and machines that assist the elderly while “over-55s are spending more than anybody else” in the country.
However， she adds that countries globally must also begin to plan for a future in which the traditional three-stage life of study， work and retirement no longer applies.
“People have got to be much more proactive，”she says. As well as planning， saving and staying healthy， they must be “more savvy about what the future is going to be like.”