The Old Bionic Worker

The Old, Bionic Worker - how the 21st century will be ruled by the Old

TEKST: BRUCE WENHAM

Just starting out on your career? If you're a new graduate trainee- say 25, you're thinking "just another 40 years in the office to go". - Wrong!

Oh - you thought that at 65 you'd be retiring - heading for that serene, sun-lit, green golf course? Wake up! - you're living in cloud-cuckoo-land!

Ten million Britons lost Ł10,000 each this summer from their company pension plans as a result of the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals. Leszek Miller's government has just withdrawn from plans to stop pensioners working part-time. People are living longer and demographic changes will force us to reconsider how we structure our lives. The UK, like most Western nations, has an ageing population. As the baby-boomer generation approaches retirement, there will be fewer people working to support them.

Advances in medicine are increasing life expectancy. So now you're 25, will retire at 85 and kick the bucket at 100. But wait a minute - then it will be 2062 - and you'll have a bionic heart with newly-cloned kidneys, liver and lungs, won't you? (not to mention those anti-Alzheimer's pills). Life expectancy will have increased to 150! You're retiring at 120 man!

The trend for developed countries will be fewer and older people. Imagine the future cities of Germany in 2070- crowds of silver-haired pedestrians walking between shining glass, steel and chrome kilometre-high skyscrapers. We need to find ways for them to work! (plug 'em into the web as content uploaders, something like Neo was in the Matrix)

But in reality in the West the 21st Century will be ruled by the old - as the baby boomer generation ages in the next decade, the over-60s will own the majority of financial assets and possess awesome spending power. They will demand changes! Imagine the beaches of Spain, Italy and Greece - rows of rich, old, bronzed, wrinkled bodies frying on white, sandy beaches - while poor, young, handsome servants in their 20s mix cocktails for grandads raving in Ibiza!

There will also emerge a new, wealthy, super-fit and active army of workers over 60 - experienced staff with key skills. They'll continue working after retirement - or go into business.

Phased retirement will become standard: moving to part-time work, by gradually scaling back hours.

Others will want to start new careers or capture long-lost dreams - "in August Granny and Grandad are going scuba diving off the great barrier reef - next summer their trekking in the Amazon jungle, then in 2075 it's a last-minute package tour to the ISS II".

VOCABULARY

assets - any objects, tangible or intangible, that are of value to its possessor
baby-boomer - a person born during a baby boom, esp that which followed World War II
bionic - superhuman, esp with parts of the body replaced with electronic/mechanical devices
cloud-cuckoo-land - an imaginary situation or land, esp due to impractical or wishful thinking
'em - them
ISS II - International Space Station II
kick-the-bucket - to die
man - a word of familiar address
pedestrians - walkers, travelling on foot

plug into - to connect (an electrical apparatus, etc) with the electricity supply by inserting a plug into a socket
retirement - the act of withdrawing from society, office, public or active life, business, profession etc
scuba - self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, used by skin-divers, consisting of a breathing tube attached to cylinders of compressed air
serene - calm, unclouded
staff - a body of people employed in an establishment, usu on management, administration, clerical, etc, work as distinct from manual
trekking - making a long, hard journey, usu on foot



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