Getting old

Rather than seeing ageing as a problem and old people as a burden, shouldn't we start thinking about all the positives that an older population can contribute to our society? A two-day conference will bring together designers, artists, policy makers and employers to start a new conversation about what it means to get old

"Across all of our public discourse, ageing is seen as a problem and older people are seen as a burden. That's really a road to nowhere," says Alan Walker, a professor of Social Policy at Sheffield University. While we are used to hearing about the problems that ageing populations in the West will bring, what about the opportunities that an experienced and educated workforce could provide?

The Age of Retirement is a two-day conference in London where a mix of designers, employers, policy makers, academics, and thinkers will explore the social and economic opportunities of a Britain in which the average person now lives longer.

Instead of doom-mongering about pressure on social services and pensions, the focus will be on topics such as how technology can revolutionise life and work for the over-50s, the images and icons of ageing, why managers only ever seem to employ people younger than themselves, care and how to change it for the better, and how older people can be just as innovative as younger ones.

The creative industries themselves are among the worst at discarding older people whose experience and skills still have much to offer. But perhaps they can contribute to the solutions needed to offer older people the chance to continue to contribute to society while also being provided with better care and services? As well as the likes of BT, Barclays and the Department of Work and Pensions, Google head of design Patrick Collister, Georgie Mack of Made by Many and Jeremy Myerson of the RCA's Helen Hamlyn Foundation will all be contributing to the debate, as will RKCR/Y&R co-founder Robert Campbell whose High50 website is "A global community for people over the age of 50 who believe the journey, in all its wonder, has only just begun".

The conference was put together by ex-This Is Real Art founder, Georgina Lee, whose new business Commonland uses design thinking to tackle social issues, and Dr Jonathan Collie, founder of Trading Times, which connects employers with skilled local people over 50.

The Age of No Reirement? is at the Bargehouse, London SE1, on October 1 and 2 and is free to attend. To register, go here