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Not everyone of advanced age is ‘elderly’

If 80 really is the new 60, then the 'retirement age' of 65 is in error, which is why my ministry encourages elder employment - for their good and ours
Illustrative. An 'elderly' couple taking a walk in the Jerusalem Forest. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)
Illustrative. An 'elderly' couple taking a walk in the Jerusalem Forest. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

This month, the eyes of the world have been focused on the appointment of a man in his 70s to one of the world’s most demanding jobs. And, not least, the passing of his mother in her late 90s. No prizes for guessing who I’m referring to, but the ascendancy of King Charles III to the British throne and the sad demise of HM Queen Elizabeth II at an advanced age both underline something important for our society.

In a reality in which life expectancy gets longer and longer, and technology is often there to compensate in jobs where physical strength used to be essential, nations must deal with a new question: What is the paradigm in a society where age has no meaning?

The world has changed and our mindset should undergo a transformation too. When Israel was established, life expectancy was around 65; today, it is around 81. So 80 really is the new 60 — but our perspective as a society has not yet adapted to this fact. We still look at people who are aged 60 or 65 as at the end of their active roles in the workforce. We discriminate against this group on a daily basis, just because of their age, even though they have a great deal to offer.

It’s a lose-lose situation: the economy loses a significant engine of growth, while more and more elderly people find themselves unable to earn money and become, often unwillingly, dependent on others. Along with this come the psychological difficulties of individuals who find themselves having to handle a retirement that may well last more than 20 years, and with a lack of meaningful activities and income.

Therefore, as the Minister for Social Equality, I decided that helping the elderly to stay in the workforce is one of the most important strategic issues facing me. We should turn the situation around: from” lose-lose” to “win-win.”

Despite the instability of the government, during the last year, we established a national framework designed to encourage “elder employment.” We promote legal changes that make working at advanced ages more financially beneficial for those workers, we partner with firms all over the country to match elderly workers with potential employees, which in turn will also reduce structural discrimination and prejudice against the elderly population.

In order to give tools and professional help, we’ve established specialist centers for people of traditional retirement age. These centers, under the name up60+, offer personal consulting, group activities, and a variety of different courses. I recommend any people of advanced age and their families to visit their nearest center. More information is available from our phone line: *8840.

I hope that, together, we will succeed in creating a revolution. One that will encourage our society to judge people according to their actions and abilities, and not because of their age.

About the Author
Meirav Cohen is an Israeli politician and activist. She currently serves as the Minister for Social Equality, and is a member of the Knesset for Yesh Atid. She was an MK for the Blue and White alliance from 2019 to 2021 and also served as Minister for Social Equality from May 2020 to January 2021.
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