My wife and I saw the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall," this past weekend. I was surprised to see that the movie tackles the tension between the roles of aging boomers and a new generation of young people who want to make their mark in the workplace which, in this case, includes a high-speed chase in Istanbul and an interesting journey through subterranean London.
For a variety of reasons, many boomers are not retiring. Some don't have a choice. Others feel they still have a lot to contribute in their fields of expertise. In the case of the aging James Bond, whose beat up body has seen better days, he can't walk away: for 007, love of country and the iron-willed desire to defend it tipped the scales against trading in his Beretta for a beach umbrella and a Heineken.
In 007's cloak-and-dagger world, there was room for young and old to work together to make a significant contribution to society. But as things stand in our world and in our current economy, the large number of older boomers who continue to work means there is less room for young people starting out to get into the workforce. As a society, we need to find creative solutions to resolve this tension.
Traditional cultures that are not involved in capitalism don't face this issue. Older people welcome the youth into productive roles through powerful rituals and ceremonies. The elders are honored as wisdom holders who still have an important role to play in the well being of the community. There is room and resources for everyone to live with dignity and purpose.
After decades of worshiping youth, it is heartening to see the vision of how to live when you are past your physical prime expand. Huff/Post50 is one of many venues sharing ideas and stories to inspire one in later stages in life. But now, as many industries adjust to the effects of the global economy and the Great Recession, we find ourselves in the position of figuring out how to elegantly welcome and make room for those starting out while keeping older workers in the workforce.
If we take a lesson from "Skyfall," being realistic about what each segment of the population has to offer and appropriately valuing it is a factor. The film makes clear that for all the technological advances we have, nothing can replace a well-trained, experienced agent in the field.
As a society, we need to create new structures that make room for people starting out while utilizing the skills of our older members. Those of us on the older end of the spectrum need to re-evaluate our strengths and be open to sharing them with new people coming in.
As we move forward, we can learn the importance of honoring all generations from the structure of traditional cultures. In these cultures, there is no question that everyone has an important role to play and a way is found to make it happen. We can also be inspired by the iron will of James Bond to creatively find ways to bring everyone along and support them in making valuable contributions to society.
A healthy society requires balancing the needs of all generations. At the end of "Skyfall," balance was achieved. We have our work cut out for us to find it off the screen. I'd like to hear your ideas on how we can create economic and social structures that welcome in the young while honoring those whose step may have slowed yet are still committed to contributing the best they have to offer.