Jayne Dawson: It’s time we built workplaces that are fit for the wrinklies

What retirement used to be like. When it still existed, that is.
What retirement used to be like. When it still existed, that is.
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If we have to work until we’re pushing 80, then something’s going to have to give.

IT’S not exactly news, we’ve known it for a while in our heart of hearts but, still, seeing it written down sends a shiver, doesn’t it?

Retirement. That ever-changing goal, that ever-receding dream, or at least retirement with a pension that makes life worth living.

When I were a lass, women had to give up work and take a pension at 60. Had to. Imagine!

In fact some women kicked up a fuss and went legal to try to gain the right to carry on. Mad fools!

Anyway, they got their wish – and then some. Research just published says that young people will have to begin payments at 22 and continue them unceasingly until they are 77 to build up the kind of pension some of the lucky post-war generation are now enjoying.

Take a break for family commitments and you are looking at retirement in your 80s.

Fair enough. Well not fair at all really, but merely the harsh truth. If we will all insist on carrying on living.

The question is how is it all to be achieved? The workplace is going to have to change to accommodate us all, from teenagers to geriatrics. Here are some of the changes that will clearly have to happen.

Twenty-four hour offices – it’s a well known fact that old people (and don’t hate me but by that I mean anyone aged over 50) don’t sleep like, well, babies any more. As soon as their greying heads touch the pillow, their minds go into overdrive.

There is such a lot to think about, so many friends, long gone, to remember. They may have spent the day practically catatonic, but they will spend the night wide awake, their minds leaping nimbly from worry to worry.

Offices of the future will need to harness this brainpower while it is there. Make the office permanently open, give the oldies an easy-to-remember code and let them toil away at 3am, when they are feeling sprightly.

Power down time – the flipside of having a sprightly brain in the small hours is that old people will frequently zone out during working hours. In the office this is most likely to happen in meetings. This is a condition that affects all ages but while young people have the muscle tone to remain upright while this phenomenon is happening to them, old people do not. They will slump forward onto the table, but this need not be a problem. A new etiquette will have to be worked out. I suggest this: the person sitting to the left of the slumper would be responsible for covering them, head and all, with a blanket taken from a pile always kept in a corner of the meeting room.

The meeting should then continue as normal until the person’s head re-emerges, at which point they should be handed a wet wipe from a pack always kept in the centre of the table, to deal with any drool issues.

Technological adjustments – it does become harder to see and hear as we enter old age, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem either. Screens will have to be bigger of course to allow for larger type and so will keyboards so that gnarled, weakened arthritic fingers can still tap them. And they will need to be wiped down because old people can suddenly power down over keyboards as well as meeting room tables – because they have been awake all night, remember. Also, there will need to be a constant, gentle background noise, not for the oldies but to soothe the young employees who will otherwise become enraged by the sound of the old people making that grunting noise every time they stand or sit. It goes without saying that every workplace will need a doctor, a nurse, a defibrillator and a member of St John Ambulance on permanent standby.

Memory rooms – there will need to be regular training, but old brains can actually cope with that. What they will also need is soothing memory rooms, showing films of the way it used to be at work.

Old newsreels of the days people left the office at lunchtime, went for a drink after work, and retired in their 60s. After all, everyone enjoys a fantasy film.

A bad case of pan blindness

APPARENTLY, fat people see the world differently to thin people. When researchers asked volunteers to judge the distance of a hill, the fat ones said it was further away than it really was and the thin ones said it was nearer. Thus, the thin ones were all more up for walking to it.

The fat people weren’t kidding just to get out of a walk either – they really did see it differently. According to the research, anyway.

Some might be sceptical of this notion but I believe distorted perception really exists – because I see it at work in my own home all the time.

I believe, just to pick an example at random and nothing to do with last night, it is the reason my husband never includes the pans in the washing up. For a long time, I believed he left out the pans because they were the trickiest, muckiest part of the operation.

Now I believe he suffers from distorted perception, or pan blindness. My husband doesn’t clean the pans because if they remain on the hob they are actually, truly invisible to him. He doesn’t see them or the leftover pasta, bits of mince, cold sprouts, or congealed porridge they contain.

Now I know some of you will argue that my belief is really a form of self protection to save my sanity. Easier, for instance, than believing that someone who leaves the pans is a lazy good-for-nothing. But I think this research backs me up – pans, mountains, whatever, it’s all mind over matter.

Stay off Twitter for good, Stephen

I LOVE Stephen Fry, he is right up there on my personal list of national treasures, rubbing shoulders with Judi Dench, Mary Berry and the late, great Terry Wogan.

I think he is witty and smart, and brave to discuss his mental health issues so as to make life easier for others.

I am willing to watch him on any TV show and I don’t think there could ever be a more perfect embodiment of the PG Wodehouse creation, Jeeves.

But I wish he would stay off Twitter for ever. I know he pioneered Twitter’s popularity and was one of the first to gain a zillion followers, but it just doesn’t do him any good. He is forever getting into spats and going all flouncy.

This time it was during the Baftas when he said the winner of the costume design award looked like a bag lady. They are friends and she didn’t take offence but the Twitterati did, which led Stephen to declare he wanted to leave the planet and apparently delete his account. Just don’t rejoin, Stephen.

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