The future of ... longevity

'If you don’t have an age strategy, you don’t have a growth strategy'

January 16, 2024 | By Vicki Hyman

Lyndsey Simpson works with global brands to help them attract and engage the growing talent pool of workers over 50 – and the over-50 consumers they serve. She recalls asking product innovators at one company what they’ve done lately for their customers between the age of 50 and 70.

“We’ve got this new accessibility tool with bigger letters,” she was told.

Simpson burst out laughing. “I’ll let Madonna know, because I’m sure she’s struggling to use her iPhone at 65.”

Simpson is the founder of 55/Redefined, a U.K.-based career and lifestyle platform for people over 50 and a consultancy for companies that could benefit from employing them – even if they don’t realize it yet.

A Bain analysis of employment data across the world’s most advanced economies found that the share of workers aged 55 and older will exceed 25% by 2031, nearly 10 percentage points higher than in 2021. A similar but less extreme shift can be seen in less developed countries. Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world's population over age 60  will nearly double from 12% to 22%, according to the World Health Organization.

As the multigenerational workforce grows and more people put off retirement — either out of economic necessity or a desire to contribute and stay engaged — company leaders will need to rethink their strategies for hiring, retention, training and upskilling. “If they don’t take action now, all they’re going to be doing is discriminating against their future selves,” Simpson says. “The one thing we can guarantee is that tomorrow we’re going to be a day older.”

Simpson is no stranger to reinvention. After working in banking for nearly a decade early in her career, she joined a top recruitment and executive search agency, where employer after employer had the same demands: Find the up-and-coming talent. Someone who is moldable. Shapeable. And preferably under 50.

The idea for 55/Redefined coalesced when one of her banking clients was undergoing a review by U.K. regulators and needed to hire outside consultants familiar with banking in the 1990s. She had kept the phone numbers from her banking days and started reaching  out to her old colleagues, hiring 400 people out of retirement within eight weeks.

“They thought retirement was what they wanted,” she says. “They could all afford to be retired but they hadn’t realized their life expectancy was so much longer than their parents. They’re fitter and healthier than their parents’ generation. They weren’t ready to be in the garden, puttering around, or to be full-time grandfathers.”

So, a bit shy of 45, Simpson set herself a five-year goal: “Change the world so that when I’m 50, the earth is different and there are no limitations based on age.”

Founded in 2021, 55/Redefined consists of three companies: the employer-focused Work/Redefined, which partners with organizations to develop age-inclusive hiring and talent development strategies and now has 75 corporate clients; Jobs/Redefined for job seekers over 50; and Life/Redefined, a free over-50s membership lifestyle platform. The company recently joined the Mastercard Start Path Emerging Fintech program, the company’s startup engagement program, to access the expertise and connections to grow its business and discover co-innovation opportunities. 

“If they don’t take action now, all they’re going to be doing is discriminating against their future selves. The one thing we can guarantee is that tomorrow we’re going to be a day older.”
Lyndsey Simpson

Through Work/Redefined, she works with large global brands to help them attract, retain and upskill over-50 talent — both to harness their decades of experience and to provide valuable insights and perspectives to reach customers of their own age cohort, and who have more disposable income. For example, a product may fail to land if its marketing, developed by a team of twentysomethings, misses the mark with older adults, or customer service is failing because younger employees may struggle to empathize or lack the life experience to manage the interactions with older customers, Simpson says.

Her team helps executives understand how to lead multi-generational teams — perhaps as many as five generations — and how to rethink career development, job structures and ways of working that actually work for everyone.

Flexibility, for example, is not just for the young. Forget the retirement dinner and requisite gold watch: Researchers are seeing a more gradual withdrawal from the workforce, in the form of working fewer hours, taking a bridge job in a new field or moving to gig work. It’s often out of financial necessity, but a recent Harris Poll showed that 59% of pre-retirees and retirees in the U.S.  say they want to continue to work, and 83% of those 65 and older  say it’s more vital for them to feel valuable than youthful.

Simpson’s company plans to bring a new platform to market this year aimed at helping those over 50 plan for the second half of their lives. Conceived as a benefit offered through employers or financial services companies, it will offer life and career coaching, entrepreneurship training, and reskilling and upskilling opportunities. (Younger employees could choose to gift the membership to their parents.)

For employers still convinced that younger is better, Simpson reels off stats: Older workers are less likely to leave their job within a year, less likely to take time off, happier in their jobs than their younger colleagues (perhaps because they’re less likely to be competing for promotions), and more willing to mentor and train other colleagues. A 2022 Gartner study found that companies with multigenerational teams are 288% more likely to exceed financial targets.

“If you don’t have an age strategy,” she says, “you don’t have a growth strategy.”

Vicki Hyman, director, communications, Mastercard