A few months ago, my company hire an 'older' worker and made me the supervisor. Although the older worker had many years of experience, he had to learn the new technology at my company. I soon realise he was taking much longer than the younger guys. Shortly after this older worker was hired, a friendly young Chinese feller came. This Chinese chap was a fast learner and also had very good attitude. My game plan was to let the older worker have more time to learn because this Chinese guy can do the work of 2 people easily in the interim and should be able to cover for the older guy as a team. Unfortunately the older work resigned and I had to do the exit interview yesterday.
During the exit interview, I was moved because the older worker apologised to me for "taking too long to learn" and for "not being productive". I can see the redness in his eyes when he spoke to me. I tapped him on his back and told him, "Its alright, you tried your best". Being older he felt bad he couldn't keep up with the pace and so decided to leave for more routine menial job elsewhere. I felt really bad about the whole situation and spent the whole night thinking about it.
A few years ago, my aunt who was a nurse called to ask me to teach her about computers because the hospital was computerising and she needs to "key in" alot of things. When I was a boy, my auntie thought me many things - how to make kites, how to fold cranes etc. I thought it was time for me to return the favor since I was the "de facto computer expert" in the family. When I started teaching her, I realised her age was really showing, she had to wear magnifying glass as specs (long sighted) just to see the small fonts. The first thing I had to teach her was to "double click" on icons. To you that might seem like trivial skill but to a 60+ yr old person clicking the mouse 2 times within 80 milliseconds is a challenge. I took about 1 hour of practice just to get past that and still my aunt will occasionally be a little slow and Windows (yucks) will treat it as 2 single clicks. I thought of adjusting the double click setting to her timing but that wouldn't work because she had to use the computers at the hospital which had the default setting. The whole computerisation was an extremely stressful experience for my aunty and the training course conducted at the hospital was fast like a "bullet train" for her. She did cope with the computerisation with the help of her kind fellow nurses but my uncle persuaded her to retire shortly after because he had a good pension (my aunt had chosen the CPF scheme and regretted later) and the children are all grown up. My aunt is now happily traveling most of the time instead of working.
Singapore is lucky to have a far sighted govt - one that plans for the long term and ensure that the work ethics of the old is preserved. Thanks to many ingenious schemes such as the liberalisation of CPF to buy property, much of the money that was meant to help Singaporeans retire earlier have been sunk into property. Of course being an extraordinary govt that deserves its million$ salaries and high pensions, they figured out the solution to all this is to have Singaporeans work longer and retire later. For a significant segment of the population who don't even make enough for basic necessities, they will have to work until they die. They only have themselves to blame for their predicament because they were not able to elevate themselves to earn more as the govt continously retool the economy to maximise GDP growth. When you get older, you will lose your physical and mental agility. Some people say Singaporeans age faster because of the high stress level in our society (2nd highest in the world?). A 60 yr old in Singapore is like a 70 yr old somewhere else. It will be very tough for our older folks to keep working however they should see it as a challenge ....they are so lucky to have a govt that keeps throwing challenges at them even as their minds and bodies age.