As Tejvan Pettinger wrote in his blog “The main impacts of an ageing population”, we must be proud of the great achievement of the twentieth century regarding the dramatic rise in life expectancy. However, the aging population comes with many challenges for smart cities— across social, financial, economic, and political dimensions. Managing healthcare quality and costs for this demographic is one of the key focus areas but there are other areas that our Smart Cities majors and municipal councils should consider.
“As governments begin to use technology to improve city life, the older generation should be top priority” (Source: Intel futurist Steve Brown).
Healthcare for senior citizens and disable population will be probably one of the main issues for smart cities, but due to the increasing number of retired workers, smart cities majors and municipal councils will be forced to struggle against this ‘demographic time bomb’ and I hope, for the good of the society, they start planning what services they must offer to all of millions of not so old workers in order they can live the life they deserve.
In a recent post, Bill Gates alerted about big changes that are coming to the labor market and that people and governments aren’t prepared for it. What Bill Gates did not say is that not all will be as lucky as him to work until they want and will be excluded of the system sooner than they would wish. In my post “Will Machines replace our White Collar Jobs?” I described how the 4th Industrial Revolution powered by the Internet of the Things is going to change white collar workers lives and in spite that surely will generate new jobs, most jobs will be replaced by intelligent machines.
How smart city technologies will help to respond the needs and challenges of a future society with increasing numbers of retired older workers?
Today many city challenges are related with: Air Pollution Emissions, GHG Emissions, Inequality, Noise maps, Rubbish bins, Traffic Monitoring or Water leaks. And the ongoing initiatives and projects have a focus on solve these problems. We can find many companies developing solutions for future generations like ABB working in Smart Cities initiatives focus on implement intelligent solutions, Hitachi pursuing the Smart City Commuting scenario, IBM smarter cities for smarter growth, or Microsoft CityNext.
If you are interested in learn how cities all around the world work with developers and contractors to make city living better, I recommend you to read “25 Technologies Every Smart City Should Have” post.
Population aging will change the way we work. The time of put our retirement on autopilot is over. The pension plans and earnings of years of service will not be enough for the new retired workers. We are witnessing a new phenomenon. Retired workers will face new challenges and will need the help of technology to avoid being excluded from society.
In 2012, Rik Kirkland, a partner at McKinsey & Company, suggested that technology will be really essential and a critical enabler to successfully meet this massive aging transition challenge. Wim Elfrink, Cisco Executive Vice President, believes that urbanization based on networked cities can help the world meet its demographic challenges.
What will be the effect in the cities of have a high percentage of retired older workers?. In the future retired workers will be healthier, they will live longer and unfortunately their savings will not be enough to ensure their life in the cities. That means cities are going to have to invest more in create new jobs, training older retired people to better accommodate these workers, and promote flexible workplaces because many older workers want more freedom and flexibility than a traditional full-time.
The Internet of Everything will allow new business models based on Internet of Things technologies. Sensor technology is increasingly being used in cities to provide hitherto unknown information about how traffic is flowing, where water pipes are leaking and how much rubbish is going in bins.
Many older people volunteer, so the coming surge in retirement could unleash an army of volunteers to promote the public good and Smart Cities must encourage creation of new hybrid services around sensor data and Open Data to successfully meet this massive retired older workers challenge.
Companies like Uber, Airbnb, are showing that it is possible to innovate and create new partial jobs. Other companies like PowerNi are showing a way to reward surplus of renewable energy. Smart Cities technologies will allow creation of many new services (commerce, healthcare, security, tourism…) and it is time companies think in retired workers not only as consumers.
How retired workers can help to maintain and improve smart city services?
Not all responsibility belong to city governments or private companies, retired older workers have to be part of the solution. We have seen that many older people volunteer, so the coming surge in retirement could unleash an army of volunteers to promote the public good.
Some retired workers have the skills and assets (smart homes, smartphones, connected cars,…) that will be monetized in the new smart cities services, and the majority will be willing to learn and accept new jobs to avoid become parasites on the society.
There are lots of anecdotal evidence suggesting that age discrimination is widespread, but attitudes could change as the workforce ages are varying. Smart Cities councils are trying to understand the types of jobs that older people get and what employment barriers they face, especially when jobs are scarce. They are offering to companies and older workers tax advantages to make easy find new jobs when they’re laid off. But this is not being enough.
Internet of Everything will be really essential and a critical enabler to successfully meet this massive aging transition challenge.
Nevertheless, retired workers can not be passive actors of this challenge. This collective need to contribute to solve the problem. Changing somewhat famously John F. Kennedy sentence: “It’s not what your city can do for you, it’s what you can do for your city”.
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