According to the OECD, the median age of the population will increase from 40 years today to 45 years in 2050. “The church must awaken the mission call that the Lord gave the elderly people”, says a Christian leader.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has published the study Working Better With Age, which “summarises the main challenges and good country practices to improve the employment prospects of people at an older age”.
“The median age of the population is projected to increase from 40 years today to 45 years in the mid-2050s, and the ratio of older people aged 65 and over to people of working age (15-64) is projected to rise from 1 in 4 in 2018 to 2 in 5 in 2050”, the document says.
Better polices, will “allow population ageing to go hand in hand with longer, more fulfilling and prosperous lives, where work at an older age in good quality jobs is both promoted and valued”.
If nothing is done to change existing work and retirement patterns, “the average number of retirees per 100 workers in OECD countries is projected to rise from 42 in 2018 to more than 58 in 2050, and even rise to more than 100 in some of the oldest OECD countries”, the study points out.
Are the challenges of increasingly aging societies only economic?
RETIREMENT, MUCH MORE THAN MONEY
“The most obvious challenge is the payment of retirement pensions to a larger population and for a longer time, along with a greater expenditure in the health budget”, coordinator of the Graduates Bible Groups in Spain (GBG), Jaume Llenas, says.
The leader of the ministry focused on the world of work, adds: “It has already been said that ‘demography is destiny’, and that implies that children who were not born cannot just be manufactured industrially”.
Therefore, in Europe faces the need of “attracting young people from other countries to help pay for pension expenses and maintain the welfare state. It is quite curious that what is perceived as the problem, is the only real solution to a situation that has no turning back”.
Furthermore, Llenas emphasises that “families play an essential role in caring for their elderly relatives. If our family structure continues to deteriorate, the older members of the families, who are increasing in number, will suffer greatly”.
Charo Pablos, member of the leadership of the Spanish Evangelicals Law Forum agrees: “In times of economic crisis, the retirees have provided a huge service to the family and, in turn, to the general economy”, she says.
LIFE AFTER WORK
The OECD suggests the need to improve training and working conditions to strengthen an increasingly large age range between 55 and 64 in the labour market. “Efforts to raise old-age participation alone will not be sufficient in most countries to prevent dependency burdens on workers from raising. An comprenhensive strategy is needed to strengthen work attachment across all age groups and population groups”, the report says.
“Given the growth in the number of older people, it is necessary to create new spaces, such as leisure centers with cultural offerings, and retirement homes where they can go when they need it, keeping their quality of life”, Pablos emphasises.
“It is necessary to open up integrative channels of coexistence, so that retirees continue to be an active part of society”, she adds.
CHURCHES AND THE ELDERLY
According to Llenas, “the Bible shows little generational confrontation, because it believes more in intergenerational cooperation”.
“The church is one of the few places in society where there are people of all ages with a common goal and in a common activity, the mission of God”.
“When everyone is subjected to the experience of the mission of God, all age groups of the church need the support and participation of the other, without generational distances”, he added.
However, Llenas laments that “the churches have not yet begun to exploit the potential of the elderly in the mission. We must definitively abandon the mentality that the older members of the church are a sector that asks for services and that must be quiet until the Lord takes them with Him”.
“Let us abandon the mentality of paying tribute to them and of having them as an ancient object that is kept there by nostalgia for what they once were”.
Llenas points out that “they are the greatest missionary force that we will have available in the coming decades. The church must awaken the mission call that the Lord gave them”.
“They are much more than members of the church, they are missionaries who have time and financial resources, we must remind them God's call, train them and send both at home and at the end of the earth”.
For the GBG cordinator, “in the future, we will have to see missionary training conferences directed in a special way to this generation that has a lot of gifts, outstanding technical capabilities and a biblical knowledge above the church average”.
“According to the biblical view of work, retirement does not change anything. Work in the Bible is not just paid work. The fact that they pay you or not for it does not add or modify anything. God's call to cooperate with Him through work has no variation”, Llenas adds.
“If work is an act of worship and cooperation for God's purposes, the end of working life in a company is only a change of destiny, but it is not the end of anything. If you were an employee of God's mission, it only means that you will now exercise it elsewhere”.