If you were in New York City last Wednesday morning, you might have been on your way to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, shopping at Macy's or just enjoying a coffee at one of the thousands of Starbuck's. Or, like me, you might have had the true delight of breakfast at the 2015 Age Smart Employer Awards, where the indefatigable, charismatic and herself very smart Ruth Finkelstein was presiding.
Eight years after New York City's launch and early global leadership of the WHO Age-Friendly Cities program we now have full engagement of business through the joint initiative of The Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, The New York Academy of Medicine and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which provided the funding.
New York City, of course, is home to corporations from BlackRock to Pfizer who are among the global leaders of a healthier and more active aging for the one billion of us over 60. But, at breakfast today you would have been inspired not be Larry Fink or Ian Read, CEOs of these venerable global institutions, but by people like Jay Parker, a third generation deli owner from Queens, who, upon receiving the award, allowed, "I don't see the fuss [employing older New Yorkers]... it's just smart!" The Deli's retention of older employees through constant nimble restructuring and reassigning jobs keeps the restaurant competitive and successful. Their retirement savings plan, unusual in the food industry, also helps to keep employees with them as the age.
They came from across the five boroughs to celebrate New York's aging population in ways that were plain natural because it was just good business. Amy's Bread operates three retail cafes in Manhattan, distributes to over 250 wholesale customers every day and has a really effective mentoring program where its older workers train younger ones; but like Ben's Best Deli, putting older and younger workers together is just part of their culture delivering great product for new Yorkers. No big deal! Or is it?
The theme today was dramatically clear. Successful businesses in today's aging economy can only be successful if, as Scott Stringer, New York City Controller said at the breakfast, "...flexible [work] is the new way to grow [our] New York Economy..." effectively promising that our 20th century idea of retirement is just plain incompatible with 21st century New York age demographics. Stringer was reflecting the reality of a city where older adults outnumber school age children; where in just over 10 years a fifth of the city will be over 60; where there is a huge and growing economic dividend for the older citizen market. Stringer, echoing another who, in his thickest Bronx accent let us know that we are ageless if we have our health, a condition which is all the more likely if we keep active, engaged and working.
What a great way to start the morning!