Someone (it seems likely that it was my yoga teacher, since I’ve tracked what I’m about to say down to Deepak Chopra) told me recently that we have approximately 60,000 thoughts in a day. Hurray! Thoughts! Unfortunately, 95% of them are the same thoughts we had yesterday.
What was I thinking about yesterday? I spent most of it at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with our clients and friends Swiss Re, who are in the process of turning 150 years old. 150! We had a rare old time enjoying the location, Swiss Re’s rather fabulous hospitality, and the very thought-provoking plenary and dialogue sessions that our hosts set up. We also – I have to mention this somewhere – put away a few delicious bacon-flavour marshmallows.
But we weren’t there just to be spoiled, much as we enjoyed that part. A key focus of the day was the Open Minds Forum: a chance for guests to get together in groups and generate some fresh perspectives on the risks that face generations to come:
•How might we advance sustainable energy solutions, for example?
•How can we manage the risk of climate change and the natural disasters that it precipitates?
•Who and how can we partner to increase food security, and what needs to be done?
•How will we pay for these longer lives that we’re all likely to enjoy?
We had a flock of visualisation artists on hand to illustrate our every thought, and our group’s artist, Annie, did a great job of scribing the discussion, summing up the themes in a creative, inventive way using just three pens and a set of whiteboards. I've included a photo of Annie doing her thing.
I’ve been carving out a research specialism in ageing society (specifically, retirement planning and consumer decision-making, since you ask) for several years now, and I still heard innumerable thoughts and facts yesterday that I’d never heard before. One thing we all talked about afterwards was mentioned by our dialogue session ‘firestarter,’ longevity expert Professor Tom Kirkwood CBE, who described how in the 2001 Census, anyone aged 75 or above was asked simply to turn to the back page and sign their name after indicating their age. I mean, what else would we want to know about them?
So. A panel of experts, lots of new facts, and new ways of thinking, and lots of bright, thoughtful people all together (some of us full of bacon-flavour marshmallows), intent on making some headway into these four very complex and relevant problems. I can’t sum it all up here, but some of the key takeouts were:
•We had some positive things to say – in fact, we thought the only option was to be positive, although someone also dreamed up a shadowy ‘Grim Saver’ concept
•We thought about things we hadn’t considered before. How long before Apple makes hearing aids? Will we have pension funds for our grandchildren while they’re still babies?
•At least one of us sat there and thought – really thought, not just daydreamed – for the first time about what life will be like when it’s 2050. I’ll be 71. I won’t just be thinking about ageing society; I’ll be doing my bit to embody it.
I’m sorry that you haven’t got to the end of my blog to find the answer to the issues that our rapidly-ageing society presents, or those posed by the other ‘big risks’ I mention above. But I’m optimistic that somewhere along the way, a seed or two was planted yesterday.
PS Esther Rantzen stepped up last night to introduce a new charity, the Silver Line. It’s a telephone helpline that provides support, friendship and empowerment to older people. It’s a great idea and a hugely worthy cause – do have a look.
Category: Funding longer lives: Longevity risk, Pension/retirement
Location: Battersea, United Kingdom