World Health Organisation (WHO) gives us a new lease on life as they extend the age of youth

There remains no doubt that the world has changed significantly in the past 100 years.  New technologies have changed the way we live and work and and advances in medicine have evolved us in such a way that on average, we are living longer.  Research reveals that today, the life expectancy of a 50 year old has increased to an extra 33 years.  Research conducted in the United Kingdom confirms that in 1851 less than half of the population of England and Wales lived beyond their 50th birthday. 

An important factor determining the increase in human life expectancy is the decline in infant mortality rates.  It is reported that in 1800 43% of the newborns worldwide died before their 5th birthday.  Let us look at another interesting statistic:  In 1960, which is only 60 years ago, the mortality rate of children was 18.5%, which translates into the frightening reality that approximately 1 in 5 children died in childhood.  Fast forward to the year 2015 and we see a significant rate of decline to 4.3%.

A report released by Our World in Data revealed that a 5-year-old child in 1841 had a life expectancy of 55.  However, today a child can anticipate that he or she will live to approximately 82 years of age which translates into an extra 27 years.

In general, a comparison drawn between today and 200 years ago shows that human life expectancy rates have drastically increased due to:

  • More children being vaccinated against disease and having better nutrition, cleaner and safer living conditions and the prevalence of advances in medicine.
  • Children who make it past the age of 5 years have a better chance of surviving till old age than their ancestors due to better public health initiatives and a decrease in health inequality.

While there are exceptions to every rule, it is safe to say that the world has become a safer place since the Middle Ages.  While the news may often appear to suggest the contrary, deaths as a result of homicide, conflicts, accidents, childbirth and famine have been steadily declining for a long period of time.

Another recent study by Stanford University biologist Shripad Tuljapurkar revealed that the average death age for those who live beyond the age of 65 increased by three years for every 25 year time span.  This means that currently, on average, we can expect to live approximately six years longer than what can be called our most recent ancestors, that is, our grandparents.

The same study also indicates that humanity’s efforts to increase the human lifespan are not completely in vain with previous research gauging the human lifespan to be at around 115 years.

So, while statistics may indeed reveal that humanity is living to a more advanced age than ever before, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been hard at work in the background and come up with a new criterion for dividing human age that will leave some of us feeling younger than ever.  According to this new age classification, 65 years old is still young.  In the past, and based on the Friendly Societies Act (1875) in Britain, people were considered ‘old’ by the age of 50.  Yet, recent research conducted by the WHO around health quality and average life expectancy benchmarks and defines a new criterion for dividing human age using the following classifications:

  • 0 – 17 years old:  underage
  • 18 – 65 years old:  youth or young people
  • 66 – 79 years old:  middle-aged
  • 80 – 99 years old:  elderly or senior
  • 100+ years old:  long-lived elderly

What does this new age classification mean for us in the workplace?

With an increased life expectancy and advances in medicine, people will lead healthier lives for a lot longer than ever before and when people start living longer they are going to keep working longer.

This means that more and more people of pensionable age will continue to study, launch new businesses and even become work-life mentors to younger people.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics people in the workforce who are aged 55 or older will beccome the largest segment of the labor force in the United States.

It has also been observed that older workers generally have a strong work ethic and research from the Milken Institute’s Center for the Future of Aging and the Stanford Center on Longevity also reveals that older employees took less sick days, demonstrated greater problem-solving skills and were more than likely to be more satisfied in their jobs than their younger counterparts.

Embracing a culture of lifelong learning and becoming a learning organization

With an increasing number of people living and working longer, in recent years, education and training providers and business have started to embrace a culture of lifelong learning and the emergence of what is defined as a learning organization has become part of the ‘new normal.’  A learning organization, by definition, is a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself. 

The concept of the learning organization was developed from a body of work known as Systems Thinking which is a conceptual framework that enables people to study businesses as bounded objects.  Learning organizations use this way of thinking when assessing their business and use information systems that measure the performance of the organization as a whole as well as its various components.  Systems Thinking affirms that all the attributes of a learning organization must be apparent at once in a company for it to be considered a learning organization.

You are never too old to learn

Most of us have heard people say:  ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’  This may have been true 100 years ago but has no basis in fact in the modern era as we consider the phenomenon of embracing lifelong learning as a way of life.  And people will also say that when starting anything new: ‘there is no time like the present.’  So, no matter your age and stage of life, now is the perfect time to start.  Click here to download our 2021 Training Catalogue and keep learning. 

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