The article on vintage fashion featuring 75-year-old South Korean model Choi Soon-hwa is fascinating and inspiring (“Vintage Fashion,” July 11, page 14). South Korea is an aged society with an elderly (65 to 69 year olds) employment rate of 45 percent, the highest among Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development countries, whose average is 25 percent.
However, with most of the elderly landing low-pay, poor-quality jobs, about 45 percent of them live in relative poverty. This plight shows the importance of rethinking the career potentials of the elderly.
This issue is also significant to Taiwan, which is an aged society where the government intends to promote employment for middle-aged and older people.
Choi is not the only senior model in South Korea. As the story pointed out, there are other well-known senior models, including Kim Chil-doo, 64, and Park Mak-rye, 72.
It echoes a new trend emerging globally. To better reflect age diversity in society, Western nations are using elderly models, such as Maye Musk, 71, Jacky O’Shaughnessy, 67, and Jan de Villeneuve, 74, to give fashion a silver vibe.
The trend has received praise and attracts huge followers in social media.
Unfortunately, brands in Taiwan have not responded to this trend of age diversity. Senior models would reinvigorate the image of the elderly, which can facilitate their employment prospects and decrease age discrimination.
Middle-aged and older people have an advantage when setting up businesses due to their experience, skills, personal contacts and other resources accumulated throughout their lives.
According to a research paper, titled Age and High-growth Entrepreneurship, the highest success rate in entrepreneurship belong to those in middle age or beyond, while the mean age for the fastest-growing ventures is 45.
The findings debunk the myth of youth as a factor for successful entrepreneurship. Actually, experiences of the founders in the field is a predictor of success of start-ups.
There is also a trend of “olderpreneurs” in the UK. According to the British Office for National Statistics, self-employed people over the age of 50 was the largest in all age groups (nearly 1.8 million) in 2015.
While their businesses were in different sectors, many of them were in the newest areas of technology and communications, which might contradict many people’s expectations.
Colonel Sanders is a famous example for olderpreneurs. The fast-food chain now known as KFC became famous in the US after Sanders reached his 70s.
The government can tap into this age advantage by encouraging and assisting middle-aged and older people who have entrepreneurial ambitions and plans.
The creativity of middle-aged and older people is also a hidden treasure. There is a quote from Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain that Changes Itself: “In studies of creativity, H.C. Lehman and Dean Keith Simonton found that while the ages thirty-five to fifty-five are the peak of creativity in most fields, people in their sixties and seventies, though they work at a slower speed, are as productive as they were in their twenties.”
The perspective of neuroplasticity helps to explain this creativity: Unlike a machine that decays with use, the brain is a lively organism that would change and improve its structure with every activity performed.
Thinking, learning and acting help shape the brain anatomy to improve its functions and make it more vigorous even in advanced ages.
The new findings in neuroplasticity and brain science contradict the outdated thinking that human brains stop growing after adulthood.
It is worth noting that the Guggenheim Museum was designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright at age 90. Bifocal spectacles were invented by Benjamin Franklin at age 78. The dome of St Peter’s Basilica was designed by Michelangelo at age 72. The opera Falstaff was composed by Giuseppe Verdi at age 80. All of these inspiring examples manifest that people at advanced ages still have much to offer to businesses and society.
Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone in every nation has the right to work. And everyone should receive equal pay for equal work without discrimination.
Ensuring everyone’s right to decent work and realizing everyone’s career potential at any age help make the economy more inclusive, prosperous, innovative and creative.
Wang Ching-ning is a medical information analyst and an independent researcher.
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