Ageing Rewired – how to flourish in later life

Lynne Dorling, MCIPD and positive psychology coach, has spent the last couple of years researching the topic of ‘positive ageing’. In Ageing Rewired, she shares findings from her own research, coaching case studies and highlights from selected secondary research on this topic.

The research and insight industry has a current talent shortage, with fewer school leavers and less availability of workers from outside the UK. But we could be ignoring a highly experienced, passionate, loyal and reliable talent pool. As Lynne explains below, “whilst great progress has been made generally in the Diversity and Inclusion arena, Age as a protected characteristic, lags well behind Disability, Race and Gender in terms of awareness and action to improve lack of inclusivity.”

Lynne has some incredible insights for anyone of any age, but also reminds employers to consider this often overlooked talent pool.

Huge congratulations on the launch of your book, ‘Ageing Rewired’. What inspired you to write this book?

As a business coach for many years, I had always tried to work with people’s strengths rather than try and ‘fix them’. I noticed that my coaching clients often fell into two very different mind sets – either ‘can do’ (i.e. cup half full) or ‘can’t do’ (i.e. cup half empty). This made a real difference to their career success and I began to wonder about the power of positive thinking to overcome other life challenges.

Fast approaching my own ‘third act’ (as described by Jane Fonda), I took a sabbatical to study the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing with the well–respected Langley Group. During the course we were asked to specialise in two topics we felt strongly about – I chose positive ageing and positive mental health.

As part of my research, I realised that many of my role models for positive ageing shared common characteristics. Digging a little deeper I ran focus groups, interviewed several ‘super agers’ and read widely to support my findings.

‘Ageing Rewired – how to flourish in later life’ is the result of that work.

The book defines 8 characteristics, explains why each is important and offers tips and techniques to help ‘rewire’ the brain towards a more positive mind set. It is intended as a self – help guide to encourage people to take a more proactive approach to their own ageing process.

Do the 8 characteristics only apply to older people?

The interesting thing about the traits I identified as being particularly helpful in later life is that they are not rocket science but things we all have in our ‘kitbag’ without necessarily being aware of them. Most people would find the following characteristics serve them well at any stage of life:

  • Sense of purpose
  • Optimism
  • Resilience
  • Proactivity
  • Adaptability
  • Perspective
  • Curiosity
  • Connectivity

And the exciting thing is that these can be ‘dialled up’ at any stage of life to enhance a positive mind set. I’ve been approached by several people still in their 40’s who wanted to know more about ‘doing the work’ early to benefit them in life and career. Some of them also wanted to help their parents approach later life more positively.

It is often younger people who are more used to investing in self – development. There are 25 activities in the book and a Personal Action Plan section at the end which are intended to reinforce the learnings from each chapter.

What are you hoping will be the key takeaways for people reading the book?

  • To be more hopeful about the next phase of life
  • To believe they are more in control of their own destiny and ability to make informed choices
  • To feel more confident and clearer about their own strengths
  • Some practical tips to shift towards a more positive mind set
  • A belief that later life can also be fun!

What do organisations need to do better to manage people from mid-life onwards?

Firstly, they need to recognise that many more people are choosing or having to work longer. In a report by Centre for Ageing Better (CFAB) in 2018, 1 in 3 workers were over 50. More recent findings suggest that 1 in 7 workers in the UK are now over 65. In the US, over a quarter of the workforce will be over 55 by 2026.

This brings with it great opportunities e.g. a wider pool of talent and also significant challenges – engaging, motivating and developing older employees.

Research would suggest that often people are looking for similar things at this stage of their careers as younger people – meaningful work, flexibility of working practices, social inclusion and recognition for jobs well done.

What might differ are mature workers preferred ways of communicating, health challenges and sometimes a dwindling lack of confidence. Company policies need to be updated appropriately but then applied individually. There really is no substitute for getting to know each and every employee, finding out what makes them tick and what would make work a positive experience for them. Investment in both professional and personal development would also pay dividends and increase productivity.

Organisations need to develop an age positive culture and line managers need to be better equipped to manage an intergenerational workforce.

What are the benefits of employing over 50’s?

It’s a well-known fact that diverse teams perform better. However, whilst great progress has been made generally in the Diversity and Inclusion arena, Age as a protected characteristic lags well behind Disability, Race and Gender in terms of awareness and action to improve lack of inclusivity.

And yet businesses are competing for a diminishing pool of talent. With fewer school leavers and less availability of workers from outside the UK, it is timely to consider the many advantages of reaching out to this often untapped talent pool. Older workers offer loyalty, reliability, and commitment as well as vital knowledge and skills gained through life experience. Just watch the film ‘The Intern’ for a lovely example of this!

Many young people don’t know many older people and intergenerational projects and initiatives have been found to bring benefits to all.

Where can readers of Significant Insights find the book?

Troubadour have been both incredibly supportive and patient throughout my publishing journey. If you’d like to grab a copy of the book, here’s the link: Ageing Rewired – Troubador Book Publishing