Adding life to our years, not just years to our lives.

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Camilla Cavendish


“What all of us want, as we age, is to add life to our years, rather than just years to life. An extended middle age is not unique to US politicians. It should be available to everyone — and that will soon be a geopolitical imperative”

This is how Camilla Cavendish ends an opinion piece in the FT which focusses on the challenge of longer lifespans.

I was interested by a comment on Twitter by Ruston Smith , after he’d just read the article.

Can technology be used to add life to our later years? What was Ruston thinking and how can organisations like Smart Pensions and AgeWage help?

I am of course flattered by the company I keep in Ruston’s tweet. Smart is already a major tech enterprise and Ruston’s Tesco has embraced technology in the workplace and in its pension office. But I hope that I am on their  wavelength.

As the world greys…

Camilla Cavendish looks around the world at ways countries are dealing with an ageing population, noting that Japan- the oldest demographic on the planet, has obsessed about making older life , healthier and more productive.

She looks at America and comments

It also has a growing group of people in their seventies and eighties living in what I call “extra time”, an extended middle age. If it can tackle its growing health inequalities, it could yet retain its global pre-eminence.

She notes that this inequality in health is increasing a feature in England where life expectancy growth actually seems to be stalling because of a combination of poverty and obesity.

A shocking new report suggests that the average English man and woman can now expect to spend slightly more than a fifth of their lives in poor health. There is now a 12-year gap in healthy life expectancy at birth between rich and poor.

But despite these inequalities in health, both the US and UK are seeing productivity from its greying population. In the US and UK, one in four people are now “unretiring” and going back to work.

People can only do this if they have the mental and physical well-being to do so. That is the challenge facing us. If we cannot be productive then we really will be a drain on our children!


So where does pension technology fit in?

I’d argue that the opportunities to exploit what Cavendish calls our “extra time”, depends not just on physical and mental well-being but financial well-being. Indeed financial well-being reduces stress and leads to a longer healthier later life.

The good thing about technology is that it makes support available to a wider range of the population than can be reached by traditional methods. I’ll be talking about this in a separate blog today.

The conversations I have in the “pentech” space are about how we can deliver more for less by managing data.

The example that’s easiest to grasp is the pensions dashboard that finds our pensions and displays them so we can take decisions about bringing pots together and work out how to spend them.

The investment pathways that the FCA are requiring providers to offer to policyholders in the retirement zone are conceived as digital.

Last week I spoke with L&G’s retirement team about plans they have to make it easy for people of my age to manage our parent’s affairs sourcing content and products through an easily navigable website.

Smart pensions, AgeWage and a number of other pentechs are looking at ways to make it easier for people in their fifties , sixties and those going into “extra time” to stay productive – adding life to our later years.

The AgeWage…

As I continue my exploration of the opportunities technology brings us, I’ve been helped by Camilla Cavendish’s Extra Time: Ten Lessons for an Ageing World’ 

An AgeWage is created not just from pensions and savings but from the productive use of this extra time. And if we think of a wage as reward, it may be that the reward for work in later life need not be financial. Much of the  work at AgeWage is  pro-bono and from people who are well into extra time!

This work is possible because my helpers, Con Keating, Peter Tompkins, Philip Bennett and John Mather are financially independent because of pensions and savings accumulated in productive working lives.

We understand that technology empowers our lives just as it empowers our children’s and grand children’s!

Technology is actually life to our later years , through our mutual endeavour and I hope that that is what Ruston is picking up on.

I’d like to think that organisations like Smart and AgeWage can help people retiring from companies like Ruston’s  to have a more productive life in their later years.


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About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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