Western economics, based on "consumption and planned obsolescence," has applied questionable values to older people through the policy of mandatory retirement. After that often comes abandonment of the elderly to nursing or retirement homes. However, governments cannot ignore changing demographics. A predominantly old population in the immediate future is bringing to the forefront "gray power."
Springing up in response to being repeatedly rejected for jobs are home service businesses called "the gray army." Staffed by formerly unemployed tradespeople from their mid-40s through their 60s, these workers offer home-repair services as plumbing, electrical, tiling, carpentry and painting. They bring experience, reliability and competence along with reasonable rates.
Older persons do not, if in good health, seriously diminish their competence. Gail Sheehy, in her book New Passages, observes: "For the first time in the history of the world most people in the advanced societies can expect to live into the long late afternoon of life." She notes that aging studies suggest that "a woman who reaches 50 today—and remains free of cancer and heart disease—can expect to see her ninety-second birthday" (page 5). Men's longevity has similarly shifted upward.
Certain octogenarians have always stood out from the crowd. Violinist Yehudi Menuhin was away from his home in England conducting concerts throughout Australia in late 1998. He was also giving master classes for talented young musicians. GN