building a society for all ages

Second World Assembly on Ageing Madrid, Spain 8 -12 April 2002

Putting older experts to work

The Internet and e-mail have been a sea-change for those who are on line, whether at work or at home, or both. For older persons, getting connected could mean getting in touch and staying engaged on many levels. Information available on the Internet can bring libraries to one's fingertips. Chat rooms can bring house-bound older persons right into the stream of human discourse, in something very close to real time. But the natural progression and spread of information technology has had a tendency to leave older persons on the sidelines, if not completely locked out. The old saw, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" may not really be true, but unless an effort is made, and unless the technology is available, that 83-year-old great-grandmother who was so engaged in politics once upon a time will likely remain excluded from the "world information society". On the other hand, under the right circumstances, she could have the world at her fingertips as never before - whether it's in the social, health, work or entertainment sphere.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is particularly interested in bridging the digital divide. Through its technical cooperation programmes, it can support local initiatives that can help to make information technology more accessible to older people.

With population ageing, pensions and retirement ages are becoming contentious issues, and many countries have been considering ways to prolong working life. And it has been amply demonstrated that "active ageing" - staying active in one's older years - is good for older people, good for their health and good for their quality of life. Telecommuting is an excellent option for older experts, perhaps with decreased mobility, to remain working, while saving on office space for their employer.

UNIDO has found the use of older experts a win-win situation. By hiring retired experts to work on its industrial development projects, it puts to good use their level of technical skill, expertise and knowledge. And considering their know-how and experience, they are very economical. For UNIDO, older persons are far from being useless and burdensome. They are an extremely valuable and useful resource.

In the broader context of its work, UNIDO has long availed itself of the value of older people as repositories of lifelong skill, expertise and knowledge. When possible, UNIDO has hired retired experts to work on its industrial development projects. It has found that, indeed, far from being useless and burdensome, retired persons are an extremely valuable resource that provides a lot of "bang for the buck", with their level of expertise and skill, and the lower pay they may require.

To contribute to intergenerational and intragenerational equity and solidarity for older people, UNIDO can encourage the promotion and utilization of older persons' technical skills for programmes and projects in collaboration with other agencies of the UN system and national governments. To accomplish this, UNIDO suggests that consideration be given to developing a database, in cooperation with governments and national civil society organizations, on the skills and capabilities of older experts.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization is a UN agency that works to improve the living conditions of people and promote global prosperity through offering tailor-made solutions for the sustainable industrial development of developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

This article was based on information provided by UNIDO.

For additional information, please contact:
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
Augustin Stellatelli

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Department of Public Information
(1 212) 963-0499

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information DPI/2264 March 2002

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