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Seoul conference celebrates life after 50

Experts from around the world talk about utilizing ‘silver’ assets

Nov 08,2016
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon addresses some 250 participants in the Seoul 50+ International Forum hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul 50 Plus Foundation and the JoongAng Ilbo, at Seoul City Hall on Monday. [JEON MIN-GYU]
The Seoul Metropolitan Government Monday hosted an international conference on senior citizens in society and improving their lives after retirement. It examined successful efforts in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Germany.

“People in their 50s are hidden resources in Korea,” said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon as he addressed some 250 participants gathered at Seoul City Hall for the Seoul 50+ International Forum. “Our future hangs upon how these people live their lives after retirement.”

Korea’s population is aging at a rate that will give the country the second highest percentage of people over 65 in the world by 2050, according to a report published this year by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the report, Korea’s aged population will hit 35.9 percent of the total population by 2050, only second to Japan, where the aged will account for 40.1 percent.

Since April, Seoul has been running the Seoul 50 Plus Foundation, which assists city residents between 50 and 64 beginning a second phase in their life. The foundation runs six campuses, where retirees can find new recruitment opportunities, learn about start-ups, and obtain new skills to make them stronger candidates for various jobs.

“So many are struggling to get from what’s last to what’s next,” said Marc Freedman, CEO and founder of Encore.org, a nongovernmental organization in the United States that heads efforts to engage senior citizens for the betterment of the whole society.

The conference introduced examples of how other governments and nongovernment organizations engaged those aged 50 and older to cope with rapid population aging and its backdrops.

“‘Encore career,’ the second act for the greater good, is not about looking for freedom from work but about wanting freedom to work in ways that are meaningful beyond themselves,” Freedman said. “There are 4.5 million people in encore careers in the United States, and 21 million more says it’s a top priority to move in that direction… Take those numbers together and research says it’s 250 million years of human and social capital that can be dedicated to the betterment of society.”

The Encore Fellowship Program has been connecting retirees with marketing, accounting, human resources, and IT skills with nongovernmental organizations. The organization also connects retirees with community colleges to help them get back into the job market.

The experts at the conference emphasized that people need to change how they view retirees, including the retirees themselves.

Terry Mills, the chair of the Ministerial Advisory Forum on Ageing in the Welsh government, introduced an example from his country in which B&Q, a home improvement chain, opened a store that only employed people older than 50.

“What do you think happened?” Mills said. “The profits rose 18 percent, and the employment turnover rate dropped 6 percent.”

Makino Atsushi, professor of lifelong learning at the University of Tokyo, introduced social movements in Tokyo to link children with senior citizens in their towns for richer social and learning experiences for the younger generation.

“For many of these elders, the youngsters are like their grandchildren,” Atsushi said, “and approaching them with this lingo works so much better than using technical terms.”

“Grandparents always want to leave a better world behind for the young,” he said. “And this invigorates many to take part in social projects and enterprises to educate the young.”

Today, the second and final day of the conference, speakers will continue to discuss cases from abroad, like linking younger and older generations in Ireland, and invite experts for a panel discussion on how Seoul should best move forward engaging retirees for the good of society.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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