In recent months 4 good friends have crossed the barrier of 65 years. Three already retired and one is about to do it. They are people with an impressive track record, with an unblemished reputation and above all with an invaluable experience.
The four were born in the middle of the twentieth century, back in 1951. And the three have lived the greatest transformation in the world of business of which we are aware. Everything, or almost everything, has changed. The world, communication, relationships, globalization, new technologies, models, visions. All four have navigated these troubled waters with the expertise of a professional surfer.
Being “old” in this world of planned obsolescence and where everything is disposable is the most complex prejudice to combat. I mean prejudices that invalidate our elders, without even putting into value what only years of work can provide: experience.
Every time I see them and talk to them (although I prefer to listen) they surprise me. The flow of accumulated experience in their more than four decades of work is priceless. Their energy is boundless and their desire to continue learning illustrates their wisdom. And I wonder every time I see them ¿How is it that society is not prepared to put into value all this experience? I understand that after so many years of work, they deserve a good rest, but what happens with their experience? Do we retire it too?
In fact, the focus of companies is set to Generation Y, the “Millennials”: Young people who will become the leaders –and consumers- of tomorrow. A group of people born between the early 80’s and the end of the twentieth century. And it’s not to pay attention to them. However, I would really like a debate on how to channel and how not to lose the wealth of the experience of my three friends and other thousands, hundreds of thousands of “old people” leaving work, and thus their contribution to society. Society needs to draw the lessons from the experience. Experience is not what has been lived, but what has been learned. Tribes throughout history looked up to the “old people”. Essentially, their wisdom laid in their experience. Today, the old is frowned upon, the years discredited and their wisdom is despised.
Three years ago a colleague who came from Australia told me that the investments addressed to the “Golden years” were increasing every year in importance. The formula was simple: people live longer and in most cases, better, and neither the world nor the economy are ready for this.
In recent years many brands have begun to invest in this new “golden niche”. People over 65 years, who are vital, with some economic power and free time. Most developments are levered on two pillars: leisure and health. The phenomenon of “eternal life” seems to have arrived. The change we are going through is very deep; our elders live and will live longer.
But there is no plan or an awareness of how to value the experience gained by these “seniors” (using the term with the utmost admiration). Neither Google nor any new technology can treasure the life experience of these “wise men” of the tribe of the XXI century.
The digital has created the idea of the “successful youth” and has made the oldest believe that they are not willing to listen and learn. At the same time, perhaps, young people do not understand why older people do not share their experience with them.
Aldous Huxley reflected on the experience by saying that experiences is not what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you.
We are in time to create a channel for the “retired” to transmit all their experience, not only not to repeat past mistakes, but also to surf the wave of the future in the hands of experienced sailors.
I mention the case of my four friends because I believe that our society cannot afford to do without them. Their experience coupled with this change of age could be more useful than ever. We should obey the wise and expert words of Laurence J. Peter “Only one thing is more painful than learning from experience, and it is not learning from experience.”