COMMON SENSE PREVAILS

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All Ages Matter. As it should.

Four months ago I wrote a blog on Dr. David Goodall – a 102 year old botanist and ecology scientist – who had been told to pack up his office with the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia declaring him unfit to be on campus.

His career spanned 70 years resulting in more than 100 research papers, earning him three doctorates and the Order of Australia for his contribution to serving Humanity.

David Goodall is also a Shakespearean actor of note.

Below link leads to the short original ABC News article on this 102-year old scientist.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-21/102yo-researcher-told-to-leave-his-edith-cowan-university-job/7769422

 

  • It turned out to be a silly decision.

 

The below link leads to a 20 December 2016 article titled “WA university reverses decision to eject 102-year-old scientist from campus”.

 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-20/wa-university-reverses-decision-to-eject-102yo-scientist/8136836

 

The 102-year-old scientist will now remain on campus after the institution reversed its earlier decision to kick him out of his office.

“I hope to continue with some useful work in my field in so far as my eyesight permits.”

Dr Goodall’s plight gained international attention, sparking debate about the value of older people in the workforce.

“I think people were rather sympathetic to me as a centenarian who wanted to continue life in society,” Dr Goodall said.

“I prefer to be on campus because there are other people around and people who potentially are friends.”

Dr Goodall has accepted an offer from the university to serve as an unpaid honorary research associate for another three years.

It feels great to blog a feel-good story in a year when The Grim Reaper and Father Time have plucked away so many very talented artists to perform on The Great Stage in the Sky.

 

Ageism at Work: “Unfit to be on Campus”

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  • Discrimination is discrimination. And none more so despicable, pathetic and cowardly than when perpetrated against the elderly.

 

Today’s News in Australia:

 

Dr David Goodall – a 102 year old botanist and ecology scientist – has been told to pack up his office with the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia declaring him unfit to be on campus.

His career spans 70 years resulting in more than 100 research papers, earning him three doctorates and the Order of Australia for his contribution to serving Humanity.

David Goodall is also a Shakespearean actor of note.

Below link will take you to a short article on this 102 year old scientist:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-21/102yo-researcher-told-to-leave-his-edith-cowan-university-job/7769422

 

This will be a death sentence. Most of his social exchanges are at the University.

This man is a scientist. Not a fitness instructor. Why send him home?

 

The Edith Cowan University is a public university, thus taxpayer-funded.

We also fund jails.

  • And this is where they are sending this man who has devoted his life to Humanity.

 

Says Dean of the School of Sciences, Andrew Woodward:

  • “This is not a decision we’ve taken lightly, this is something that has been considered over a period of time.”
  • “We are now of the opinion where the situation is at a point where we really do need to make this change in David’s best interest and our own.” (my accentuation)

 

(George Orwell: Rule # 3 on writing: “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out”

Question: Can anyone spot the excess words in the above statements? Or are both statements excessive?)

 

Here is a snip from Dean Andrew Woodward’s public LinkedIn profile:

  • “In my leadership role at ECU, I have a strong commitment to quality teaching, engaged research and a focus on expanding international partnerships. I believe strongly in ECUs values, particularly those of integrity and respect, and make sure that I demonstrate these values in my dealings with others.” (my accentuation).

 

Mr. Andrew Woodward, let me put this in a different context:

  • So, a person can be too black and must move off campus?
  • Or too white?
  • Perhaps too short?
  • Too tall?
  • Bald?
  • Wrong sex”

 

Or Too Old?

 

With modern science you may even be able to change some of the above parameters.

But age?

 

Here is a suggestion:

  • Let us put in place forced retirement of Deans after one year in their job. And move them off campus. For their best interest.

 

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But to paraphrase Andrew Woodward:

  • This is not a suggestion I make lightly, this is something that has been considered over a period of time.
  • I am now of the opinion where the situation is at a point where universities really do need to make this change in their Deans’ best interest.

 

I repeat: Discrimination is discrimination. And none more so despicable, pathetic and cowardly than when perpetrated against the elderly.

 

I would like to close with 6 points on “Remember – Age is Mostly a Number” from my 2nd book “50 PERSEPCTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen”.

 

KEY POINTS

  • How ‘old’ would you be if you didn’t know your birthdate and real age?
  • Ageism is another –ism, and is as offensive as racism and sexism.
  • Some reach mental maturity earlier whilst others are slower and even stagnate.
  • To age is a privilege. It is neither a sin, nor anti-social. Character is what counts.
  • Knowing and understanding things become easier as we age.
  • Ageing is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one with challenges taking on different hues.

 

I note Andrew Woodward was an IT Network Security Manager and Advisor for 10 years of his life. I can relate to that having been in the IT domain for 43 years of my life, and having had IT Network Security Managers work for me….

I can share the passion for acting with Dr. Goodall, having been able to play in numerous student movies and one feature film (at age 68/69) care of Singaporean independent filmmaker, director and producer Tzang Merwyn Tong. And am thankful for that opportunity to do something outside of the IT world…

 

Hence in closing:

 

“You are not old until regrets take the place of dreams” – Adapted from John Barrymore

Dr. Goodall – don’t be bullied. May you be spared for many fruitful years!

 

We all get old. Or die on the way trying to get there.

I Felt Amputated – And Home on a Sidewalk

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This is a note I wrote on 30 July 2014.

 

This morning I took a train into town to lodge my tax return. Being in semi-retirement with virtually no income for the past 18 months there was not a lot to report – just a few dollars interest and about $1,000 from some casual work. Not enough to last a winter.

The way to the Tax Office lead past an untidy long-haired bearded and shabbily dressed jobless vagrant on the sidewalk, appreciating his luck of a wrapped sandwich – gifted by a person a few steps ahead of me. A cup of coffee was still steaming next to him – another obvious gift. He did not look up, trying to avoid the stares of passersby – a thimble of pride left in him?

A twinge of empathy seeped itself into me. Winter. No fixed abode. A set of fraying and dirty clothes. Cement sidewalk for a chair – and bed.

As I sat waiting for the Tax Office to open, increasing larger pockets of people murmured by – well-heeled, chatting – some holding expensive brand name drinks and donuts. A thin layer of envy spread over me. Something was amiss.

I started to feel amputated.

The Tax Office doors opened and accorded an escape from myself. The soulless authoritarian Tax Officer and I disengaged as quickly as I could. And I then stepped into a food-court to sit down and gather my thoughts. Around me people sat at small round tables, doing what people do around small round tables.

Yes, I missed the dignity of work and what comes with it.

The way back to the train station became a lonely upstream weave against a flood of workers. The smell of freshly cooked chips wafted out of a shop.

I boarded an empty train home. Opened the plastic lunchbox with fried rice that my wife prepared for the journey. A few shelled peanuts rounded off my lunch – eating them one at a time. A minimalistic frame of mind was engaging me faster than I liked. Even the single paper serviette seemed to have more value than its one time use…

The only difference between me and the jobless “bum” seemed to be that I had a few more earthly things but in reality both of us were amputated.

There is no dignity in being poor, jobless, of pensionable age with nothing to do.

 

Postscript

And then it struck me: Amputated as I might have felt, I was going back to a house I can call a home. With running water and a toilet. A warm bed and clean clothes tomorrow. And hot soup on the stove.

I know where I sleep at night.

And I know where the Ministers of Health and Employment and Social Services sleep at night.

 

Quo Vadis?

But where do our homeless go at night?

 

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the dignity and value of a job.

 

30 July 2014

 

oooOOOooo

PERSPECTIVES: TEACHERS

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“Teaching; The One Profession That Creates All Others” ` Unknown

 

I recently received news that one of the teachers whom I respected very much passed away. Though such news is shared more often as we all advance in age, it was still a shock.

At times such at these one tends to hit the Pause and Reflect button. Though both Time and Life are difficult to define, their irreplaceability accords them a value to be generously shared with those immediately close to us, our wider circle of friends and those beyond.

There are certain professions – nay, callings – where the ripple effect reverberate down the years, decades, even centuries and millennia. It reflects in how we have been formed and transformed, how we think and the values we have made our own, instilling principles and how we carry those forward to those who come after us – our children, their children and their children’s children.

The teaching profession is one of those professions, and as I have said in a private conversation – for me one of the more noble ones. I include farmers without whom there would be no food on the table. Then there are others such as physicians and those in the medical profession – whose effects are much more visible in the shorter term. And there are other professions that touch our lives – physically, emotionally, intellectually, mentally, socially, and spiritually.

Teachers. They hold us in the palms of their hands during the most formative years of our lives to mold us, guide us, lead us, mentor us, inspire us, prepare us for a life beyond 4 classroom walls – to be a friend, even a confidante – to perhaps turn us into giants on whose shoulders other giants will eventually stand to move the world forward – perhaps not realizing that they themselves are the giant foundation layers and one of Life’s Golden Threads who have to patiently wait many years to see the outcome of the seeds they have watered.

I believe a good teacher dwells in you for life – and is reflected in those who come after you. We do not have to go far to have evidence of this: Socrates was the teacher of Plato who was in turn the teacher of Aristotle. These three philosopher-teachers laid the foundation of Western philosophy and science. Plato founded the Academy which was the first institution of higher learning in the Western World. His dialogues have been used to teach philosophy, logic, mathematics, ethics and religion. Alexander the Great once commented about Aristotle “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”

No-one has a right to have a good teacher – it is a privilege. And not all teachers are “created equal” in our lives. Dieter Pakendorf was one of those whom had been more than equal – and one of the few whom I had accepted as mentor-teachers during the 5 years I spent in high school from the age of 12 onwards. Since many of us stayed in the boarding school, these teachers also assumed the roles of older brothers, as most of us would only be able to return home every 6 weeks or even once a quarter.

No doubt they also shaped me, guided me, helped me develop and instilled principles which I still adhere to until this day. I have become a life-long learner who at the age of nearly 70 still study, read and write on a daily basis.

 

Good teachers make us students for life.

RIP “Meneer” Pakendorf

 

PERSPECTIVES: AGE – MOSTLY A NUMBER?

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“You are not old until regrets take the place of dreams” – Adapted from John Barrymore

 

We all get old – or die on the way getting there.

Age incorporates not only the chronology of your years, but also your wellbeing, including your mindset. Facelifts and body tucks may help external wrinkles, but as long as they are not written on your heart and mind, you are not old.

What is important is your “Ikigai” – the Japanese word that translates freely into meaning “the reason for which I wake up in the morning; my reason for being”.

Respect Time – which is of the essence and eventually becomes the variable centerpiece but constant reminder of life.

 

Physical

Linguistically we age people from birth: “How old is the baby?” I know “How young is the baby?” sounds strange – until we get used to it.

The physical evidence of age is more visible in some than in others and for multiple reasons. Stay young by way of physical workouts – but also mental engagement and intellectual stimulation. People still run marathons and write books into his late eighties. Vintage 65+ers cover all spectrums of society, from artists to inventors, queens to philosophers, nurses to writers and more.

I have lived in countries where the recording of births ranges from being problematic to almost impossible – due to ignorance, fear and corruption. Makes me think, the simple question to ask oneself is “If I were born in such a country, how ‘old’ would I be if I did not know my birth date and real age?

 

Social

Socially sensitive cultures envy, admire, even revere their aged. However, in most Western countries insensitive speeches by self-serving politicians often make Seniors feel they are a burden on the very same society which they helped build.

Ageism – through enforced retirement by certain age – falls in the same category as racism and sexism, and is equally offensive. Forcing a fit cadre of the workforce to retire is inexcusable and often dehumanizing. It drives many to despair – even though they may still have productive years left in which to contribute to their own and society’s welfare. It strains social security systems, severs them from social circles and friends and often sends them into oblivion – regardless of their knowledge and talents.

As counterpoint though – you should take responsibility to start building your “exit strategy” from the very first month of employment in terms of financial independence, weatherproof relationships with your partner and friends, long term personal health and wellbeing, creatively building your identity and a self-realization based on your vision and mission, your purpose and passions – not forgetting to develop hobbies and relaxation – and ultimately your legacy. Old age has no predetermined upper boundary – you could live to be a 100 or more. So, get moving!

 

Mental

Some reach mental maturity earlier than others – allowing them to think, act and speak within the bounds of respect and dignity. Others are slower to mature and may even stagnate at a point in life.

Counter this by becoming a life-long learner. We are a constant work-in-progress. Nothing happens automatically – except ageing. Everything else needs our participation. We cannot manage time. But we can manage what we do during the March of Time.

Take life seriously but not yourself. Live it and forget your age. The number of years do not make you old. People grow old because they forget their ideals and purpose – thus losing their enthusiasm for Life.

 

Emotional

To age is a privilege – not a sin, or anti-social. Character is what counts. Guard against your Inner Child growing old – even in the face of an uncertain world – and belong to yourself.

 

Intellectual

As we age, life shines with greater clarity. Knowing and understanding things become easier. Life’s puzzles are resolved with less effort. Reaching judgmental decisions seem to become easier.

Having said this, it is important that we also listen to the Young-at-Years amongst us. The “world is getting smarter earlier” and with it we see the younger generation putting remarkable stakes in the ground at increasingly younger ages – especially in the technical domain.

 

Spiritual

Ageing is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one – with challenges taking on different hues. Existing disabilities are added to – and must often be negotiated on a mental and physical front – sometimes with a looming fear of losing control over one’s life.

The aged turn more introspective – often resulting in contentment and peace or sorrow and despair – with the final outcome being one of wisdom.

Balance longevity with a meaningfulness in and of life – with peace and hope. Anchored spirituality becomes one of the cornerstones on which to build yourikigai.

  • So, is age mostly a number?

Well, your body and mind sometimes let you know the number. But punctuate Life with Spirit, Wit, Humor and Maturity.

 

Key Principles

  • How ‘old’ would you be if you didn’t know your birthdate and real age?
  • Ageism is another –ism, and is as offensive as racism and sexism.
  • Some reach mental maturity earlier, whilst others are slower, even stagnate.
  • To age is a privilege – not a sin. Character is what counts.
  • As we age, knowing and understanding things become easier.
  • Ageing is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one – with challenges taking on different hues.

 

Action Steps

  • Stay young by way of physical workouts – but also mental engagement and intellectual stimulation.
  • Take responsibility to start building your “exit strategy” from your very first month of employment.
  • Become a life-long learner. We are a work-in-progress. Live your life and forget your age.
  • Guard against your Inner Child growing old – and belong to yourself.
  • Remain young at heart and spirit. And listen and learn from both the mature and the young.
  • Balance longevity with meaningfulness. Let Spirit, Wit, Humor and Maturity punctuate your Life.

 

Where Does The Greying Of The Workforce Lead?

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Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age ~Victor Hugo.

The ageist bias against seniors is rife, but how long can the workforce ignore them as part of a productive economy?

  • Shifting demographics and workforce movements point to resource shortages which may give seniors more bargaining power in time to come.

Following are welcome facts for those seeking to be “still in demand after 65”, albeit worrisome for countries / organizations, but:

  • 31% of employers worldwide have a challenge filling positions due to a shortage of experienced talent in their markets.
  • USA: One in 7.5 is 65 or older. Credible data is unavailable for the exit and entry numbers of the workforce, but using other countries as a reference, it should be almost 1 for 1.
  • Canada: One in 7 is a senior citizen. For every worker that exits, just over 1 enters.
  • Europe: One in 5.9 is a senior citizen. By 2030 it will be 1 in 4. More people are exiting than entering the workforce.
  • Japan: One in 4.4 is a senior citizen. More people are exiting than entering the workforce.
  • By 2020 in China, Russia, Canada and South Korea more people will reach retirement age than entering the workforce.

Shifting Demographics

  • The under-65 skilled workforce in the USA / rest of the Western world is shrinking.
  • Recruitment may thus soon be from both an aging and dwindling workforce.
  • Labor demographics are shifting and will present local/global employers with resourcing challenges – which will eventually favor both seniors and countries with a younger workforce.
  • The global workforce will be augmented from retirees and women in countries where woman traditionally do not enter the workforce.

Effects of Workforce Movements

  • The available global resource pool has become more mobile. This often leads to xenophobic backlashes in countries where an influx of foreigners is seen as taking jobs away from locals.
  • Loyalty in terms of remaining with a company for many years is largely a concept of the past – for both parties.
  • In some countries the replacement is almost 1 for 1, except that those who exit has more than 40 year of experience.
  • This will create unparalleled competition/polarization between young and old, skilled and semi-/non-skilled, knowledge/non-knowledge workers, possibly amongst different industries and countries.
  • Countries/companies must develop new policies and strategies to maintain/re-engage skilled workers who are leaving the workforce due to reaching retirement age, and put in place knowledge/skills transfer policies and programs.

Enter Generation U

Generation Unretired is the newest – if not youngest – segment of the workforce. They:

  • Represent 8 out of 10 baby boomers who will work past retirement age or return to work after retirement.
  • Have significant depths of knowledge, experience and interpersonal skills, developed over 40+ years.
  • Have a strong work ethic – comparable to, if not better than other “generations”.
  • Can overcome the technology learning curve in certain industries through training.
  • “Sees the big picture and have strategic thinking experience” or a zest for detail (retired accountants).

In summary Gen U is the critical mass that has reshaped all facets of life as they moved through it and will continue to do so.