Everyone has a role to play in the system reset. How we work through this may depend on the way we interpret our social currency and adopt new strategies to rebuild. It will be crucial to ensure that we create a strong community and a strong affiliation with the consumers of our brand as we reboot, and ideally, this should start locally

Prior to COVID-19, each day was routine for many. The daily priorities might have involved getting the young ones off to school, getting to work on time, remembering to buy some fresh groceries on the way home and then putting the bins out, all of which is very unassuming!

At the time, the enormity of what was unravelling hit rapidly and the vulnerabilities were quickly realised through the irregular behaviour of everyday folk. The quality of life as we knew it was being threatened, the community was fast becoming fractured, and livelihoods were at risk.

Despite all this, the stillness forced by lock-down, was in many respects a welcomed change, a chance to re-evaluate how best to achieve things without constant compromise, a time to redesign how to provide a service to a customer or an employer and for those in lockdown with family, a valuable chance to reconnect, learn new skills and become reacquainted with themselves.

Approximately, 20% of the Tasmanian population is above the age of 65, this is the highest in Australia, almost 1 in 5 people (ABS 2016)! This is mainly because the younger cohort often leave to pursue opportunities that may be lacking locally, coupled with the attraction for senior mainlanders choosing a healthier lifestyle.

Imagine, if we embrace our local aging population and utilise all that knowledge to influence decisions to be a valued part of the rebuild. Council on the Aging (CotA) reports that despite the aging of our workforce, existing industry workforce development plans pay limited attention to the need to retain and/or reskill older workers and promote age-diverse and inclusive workforces.

The ability for older employees to mentor younger or less experienced workers to retain important knowledge and to pass on skills will increase intellectual capacity for our region. This isn’t new, yet we largely ignore it.

By supporting our older employees and by providing opportunities to retain employment, their financial security increases, both their mental and physical health increases and so does their capacity to better support successive generations by prolonging their contribution to our region.

There are several mutual benefits for older employees, businesses and the government if older employees remain in employment longer, as long as they are able and willing to do so and provide a protective aspect against ill health and poor mental health.

Many elders do not want to be or seen to be permanently ‘retired’ from the workforce. They may re-enter again in the future in part-time, short-term contracts or continue in flexible employment as long as it’s imaginable.

Of course, older workers don’t only “work” at work; they fill other vital roles in society, caring for others and volunteering in our clubs and community groups. Many of them will want to do that as well as remain employed on a part time basis, and workplaces are going to need to accommodate that.

CCA continues to advocate for government investment in this area. Operating a business is a tough gig, with many competing demands. With the right support however, managers of Cradle Coast businesses could analyse their current workforce, improve their understanding of the future needs of older workers and develop win-win solutions that see workers remain in the business for longer. This would be great for corporate memory and productivity and is increasingly necessary; we have thousands of new jobs coming online in our region over the next decade, at the same time that our population is plateauing and getting older.

CCA’s Member Councils have recently taken a lead in this space, working with us to paint a clearer picture of the make-up of our region’s local government workforce, and plan.

Embracing this ‘silver service’ as part of the new flexible workplace will provide opportunities to retain and attract quality employees, and will improve the health, wealth, motivation, and performance for all workforces within our region – lets embrace it!

Ali Dugan is Agriculture Project Coordinator at Cradle Coast Authority.