back arrowThe Big Middle

Andrew Scott


Episode description

Patchy at best, must do better - the report-card phrases that fit when assessing how government and big business are responding to the social revolution of healthy, longer lives.

On The Big Middle this time, Susan delves into what needs to change with Andrew Scott, economics professor at London Business School and co-author of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hear what when:
  • How students react to news they’ll need to work for decades more

  • Negative reaction to longer, working lives from people over 40 fed on fantasies of retirement leisure pleasure

    “People are unaware of the gains in life expectancy that have happened and they tend to judge both their life expectancy and their life plan on what their parents or even grandparents did and that model is trying to >be stretched to fit a longer lifespan and it’s not really working very well.”

  • Why he’s had to adapt what was a “pretty miserable” lecture on ageing society to reflect obsolescence of current, three-stage life model

    “We have more time and time is a social construct. In the 20th century, we invented the weekend, we invented teenagers, we invented retirement. And in the 21st century, we’re having to reinvent whole new stages and we see people in their 20s behaving differently, in their 70s behaving differently,, and in their 40s and 50s. But what we haven’t really done is change our structure of life, we still have this three-stage life of education, work and retirement. That worked well for 70 years but if you’re living to 100, that second stage becomes a 60-year career.”

  • Need for governments to do more than extend retirement age; policy lag in dealing with reality of healthy, longer lives

    “Governments are always schizophrenic in this area because they worry about Monday morning but they’re quite prepared to do things that affect you 50 or 100 years ahead. It’s the bit between one year and five years that they tend not to try and touch and corporates,in general, are even worse than governments in this regard - they’re doing, with a few exceptions, relatively very little.“

  • The new, positive narrative around ageing he promotes in book is resonating with baby boomers as it becomes a real issue rather than a prospect

  • Japanese government has set up a commission for how to live a 100-year life in response to book

  • Structural disconnect and stereotypes that were never valid persist - that older workers are unproductive and can’t learn; huge challenge because social change happens slowly; limited social experimentation; ageism is endemic

  • Business case to hire older workers? Greater fitness and productivity, better soft skills, demographic trend of falling immigration in US and UK, technological advances: robotics and artificial intelligence are fantastic for supporting older workers - AI a “cognitive prosthetic”, helps with memory tasks

  • With current three-stage life model, big challenge that corporates still lack means of measuring productivity, therefore age is big component in salary determination so even if older workers maintain or increase productivity, they are first to go when cost-cutting because of high wages

  • Human Resources departments need to design more flexible packages to keep older workers

  • Lack of access points to existing pool of jobs for older workers; “missing market” may soon be served by innovators outside large corporates with development of app to match workers with opportunities

  • Three-stage life obsolete - need to prepare for longer working life rather than have transitions forced upon you but tough because many in constant survival mode, no financial freedom to manage transition

    “There is only one thing worse than a life that is nasty, brutish and short and that’s a life that is nasty, brutish and long.”

  • Precarity of gig and freelance work, prospect of portable benefits; risk now transferred to individuals because civil society hasn’t moved, as it did during industrial revolution, to protect workers rights and social fabric

  • Lack of coordinated, mainstream approach to longer lives by policymakers because, as during industrial revolution, “we don’t know what to do.”

  • The need to quit chasing recreation and focus on re-creation

    “With the industrial revolution we saw the growth of the leisure industry - entertainment - but we’re now seeing the growth of a leisure industry that’s about investment in yourself.. your health, keeping fit, family time, community, learning new skills.”

  • Academic colleague Herminia Ibarra (Professor of Organisational Behaviour, London Business School) specialising in transitions says we used to wait to get fired or promoted to have a transition, now you’ll be causing your transitions

  • Living a better, longer life isn’t just about money, it’s also about three other intangible asset classes: productive - skills, knowledge, professional network; vitality - mental and physical health, personal relationships; transformational - ability to deal with change

  • Need to change our own mindsets about ageing -”juvenescence” - being less fixed in habits, being more open-minded, more playful...preserving spirit of adolescence, being open to new things and new ideas, new relationships, new skills

  • Push to achieve, perform can be exhausting

  • Time to retire retirement as we know it

  • Need to break down intergenerational divide - biological age matters most but we insist on measuring people by chronological age, a crude measurement that does not reflect diversity of ageing experience

  • Absurdity of classifying people according to birth dates

    "The idea that you can characterise vast numbers of millions of people by the fact they like avocado and they’re completely different to you in their 70s is ridiculous - people are just people. We need to break down that intergenerational divide and our reliance on chronological age - that’s at the heart of all these challenges.”

  • Why he’s “very nervous” about prevalent intergenerational conflict story - importance of social norms and need for wholesale redesign of life course ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Links Follow The Big Middle

Website I Twitter I Facebook I Instagram

Hosted + produced by Susan Flory

Music: “Beautiful Day” by Sahin Koc

episodes iconMore Episodes

Peter Mangan

September 19th, 2019


There's a silent but alarming epidemic of loneliness and social isolation across the rich world across all ages. The World Health Organization now …

Martin Hyde

September 5th, 2019


This time on The Big Middle, we’re homing in on the intersection of rapid population ageing and globalisation - the two biggest social …

Jeremy King

August 1st, 2019


A trailblazing effort to attract older workers to the restaurant trade is why this episode of The Big Middle sees me happily installed in the …

Margaret Morganroth Gullette

July 25th, 2019


You're about to hear from an anti-ageism voice most powerful, with a reach that’s truly global.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette's many books and essays …

Stuart Lewis

July 19th, 2019


There is an ocean of statistics swishing around these days on the degree of takeup in rich countries of the renewable asset of mature workers.

In the UK, the adjective miracle is attached to articles about the rise and …

Carl Honoré

July 11th, 2019


On this episode of The Big Middle, a big thinker and crusader against evil ageism and racing through life instead of actually living it.

Carl Honoré …

What it means, how it feels to grow old

June 20th, 2019


You will love the learning and sharing and raw emotion in this episode of The Big Middle.

For this look at the big issues of longer midlife, I’ve …

Adrian Juric

May 30th, 2019


The politics of longevity and the need for global action against evil ageism are much discussed on The Big Middle. Across the life course of my …

Tina Woods

May 16th, 2019


You may well have missed the birth here in the UK of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on longevity.

The announcement coincided with our first glimpse of a certain baby Archie. Safe to say, the newest member of the …

Richard Eisenberg

May 2nd, 2019


This week on The Big Middle, a podcast postcard from the five Blue Zones. You likely know it was journalist Dan Buettner who first put these five pockets of longevity on the world's radar with his piece in National …

Stephen Burke

April 25th, 2019


The UK is among the world's most age-segregated societies. Generations seldom mix outside of families. We've sorted ourselves into age silos, keeping …

Lucy Kellaway + Katie Waldegrave

April 11th, 2019


So many of us hit a career wall at halftime. Circumstances force change or we actively seek it. Even when chucked out due to retrenchment or evil ageism, many fiftysomethings experience an irresistible urge to do …

Marc Freedman

March 28th, 2019


Search How to Live Forever online and you’ll get one billion 30 million hits - most about conquering disease and death, the mind-blowing efforts of longevity scientists. My guest is a leading expert on longevity but his …

Jeanette Leardi

March 21st, 2019


Reasons to be cheerful about global efforts to stamp out ageism across the generations on this week's The Big Middle.

Jeanette Leardi is a social …

Ryan Child

March 14th, 2019


One of the biggest issues or our time, across all ages, across much of the world, is the silent epidemic of loneliness. In our click + connect age, real life disconnection dominates. We’re living longer but too many of …

Deborah Garlick

March 7th, 2019


These days, we openly talk about virtually everything. So why oh why are some shtum when it comes to menopause? Too many barely whisper the word when it’s a life transition that can be debilitating for so many women, …

Aubrey de Grey

February 28th, 2019


My third and final guest from the recent Longevity Leaders conference in London is a superstar of the longevity space. Biomedical gerontologist …

Wilf Blackburn

February 19th, 2019


This is the second episode from this month’s Longevity Leaders conference in London - the first of its kind. Think of the conference as the equivalent of the World Economic Forum's Davos for the rising industry borne of …

James Peyer

February 14th, 2019


Something completely different on this episode of The Big Middle, a fascinating foray into the science of the future of ageing from the first-ever Longevity Leaders conference in London.

My guest’s vision of a future …

Elizabeth White

February 7th, 2019


When my job disappeared in my 50s, I didn’t worry. I’d been a good saver, the future was exciting, unknown - let the next adventure begin. I hadn’t …

Marci Alboher

January 24th, 2019


"What if we looked at our ageing population not as a problem but as an army of experienced social problem solvers"

That quotable quote is from my …

David Sinclair

January 17th, 2019


Will 2019 be the year we get closer to reaping a longevity dividend? How do we make the most of our ageing society when inequality, inertia and ageism skew the experience of living healthy, longer lives? I put these …

Karen Wickre

January 10th, 2019


Happy New Year, happy new episode of The Big Middle. The first month of every new year heralds a blizzard of resolution listicles - 10. 20, 50 ways …

Jonathan Rauch

December 13th, 2018


Subscribers to The Big Middle will have heard just about every guest mention the U-curve of happiness. Along the life course, social and brain science shows the curve is happy-miserable-happy not - as you might have …

Chip Conley

December 6th, 2018


Hotelier. Author. Social Alchemist. Disruptor. Student. Sage. Modern Elder. That’s how my guest Chip Conley introduces himself on his website. Click into it and you find this quote: “Young enough to take up surfing. …

Nadia Tuma-Weldon

November 29th, 2018


Changing mouldy mindsets is no small order in a world full of media messages that reinforce arbitrary judgements based solely on age.

If you’re …

Dr Chris Ball

November 15th, 2018


Not every government and every company are asleep at the switch as healthspans lengthen, birth rates fall, migration slows, and the hard-stop age of retirement disappears. Some are blazing new trails, making big moves …

Ashton Applewhite

November 8th, 2018


Longevity is here to stay. There’s no disputing that. Retirement as we concocted it in the 50s is all but dead. It’s the age of the 100-year life …

John Tarnoff

October 25th, 2018


Time was, as recently as 1900, you were a heartbeat away from your coffin if you were lucky to make it to 50.

Now, even a rare, fantasy retirement on a cushy pension loses its lustre when you might live another 30, 40 …

Prof Tim Noakes 2

October 4th, 2018


This is our second look at the low-carb high-fat lifestyle being adopted by so many of us over-50s these days. Those of us who’ve examined the science behind it after years of calorie-counting deprivation and disordered …

Prof Tim Noakes

October 4th, 2018


He’s a polarising figure, vilified by medical and dietetics professionals for challenging the orthodoxy of conventional healthy eating. But there’s …

Tricia Cusden

September 27th, 2018


Even when you’re 70, society keeps dishing unsolicited advice about how you should behave, what you should do, how you should look. Bright red lippy …

Shirley Cramer

September 27th, 2018


Ageism is biting harder than ever in the West, lazy language and attitudes are reinforcing outdated practises and thinking about the presentation and capabilities of people over 50. The negativity across the …

Lord Geoffrey Filkin

September 27th, 2018


It may have escaped your notice in this age of information overload but there’s a social revolution happening across the West. The fortunate among us …

What's it about?

September 6th, 2018


We're living healthy longer but how do we do it well in a world that pretty much casts us aside after we hit 50?
Join Susan Flory and guests in …

Loading ...

Download the RadioPublic app for
 FREE and never miss an episode.

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store