It’s certainly true that music has a time-machine capacity to transport us back instantly to a time and a place, unlocking incidents and emotions from somewhere deep in our past.
I have been thinking about this – as well as the Fab Four’s unforgettable hits.
Musical purists may reflect on Revolver or the White Album. Free spirits may be reminded of the lyricism and gentle humanity of George Harrison. The more misguided may conjure up rarer compositional forays from Ringo.
However, I suppose for most, it’s the big numbers – Hey Jude, I Want to Hold your Hand or a Hard Day’s Night – that unlock the memories in the melodies.
I have a fondness for When I’m Sixty-Four as I sang it with a choir back in the days when 64 seemed like an unimaginably old age. It takes on a very different cast when you can see those days looming ever closer. Now I wonder if you – or society – will still need me, or anyone else, when we get older.
This opens up the workplace debate on a number of fronts. Perhaps the model career path should mean stepping back into part-time work or taking on more advisory roles rather than retiring at the top.
This might have the additional benefit of older workers making way for younger colleagues to rise up through the ranks but we may also have to address our attitudes to career breaks and retraining.
Lifelong learning may help people change to suit their evolving circumstances but for it to be effective we need to be honest about our attitudes to age. It would have to become normal for employers to take on apprentices in their 50s. Maybe some of us just need to move over to make way for younger people to make their own way.
In any event we need to rethink how we pay the bills, the mortgage and the education of our teens when mum and dad are back in school too.
Then there are the challenges of working on into productive older age in more physically demanding occupations. It is certainly true that advances in medical science means many of the diseases and ailments which would once have rendered someone unfit for work can be treated. Some things, with the advent of more robust health and safety laws, have, largely, been eradicated.
I work for the Association for Project Safety and our nationwide network of professionals are employed in making sure today’s construction workers are protected from the kinds of accidents and ill-health – such as falls from height, or the inhalation of asbestos fibres and silica dust – that once killed some and ruined the lives of many more. An overdue emphasis on mental health may also manage to keep more people in the workforce.
However, no matter the strides we’ve taken – or whether the pace has been forced by law or led by conscience – construction remains a physical business.
It’s not alone. Nursing, fishing and agriculture are also – but not exclusively – jobs that exact an inevitable physical toll. There is no denying that professions with a high manual content present challenges as workers are required to work on into later life before they can collect their pensions.
The increasing use of robots may reduce musculoskeletal problems – just as learning how to lift heavy objects was part of the story in times gone by.
Prefabrication, for construction, can mean less work on site, speeding up delivering the homes the UK expects to need in coming years. It may create opportunities for better quality employment but there are no guarantees.
There’s the risk that technological solutions may also reduce the number of jobs. And, with not enough work to go round, the UK will struggle to pay the bill for our lives after work. Even a zero-sum effect nationally could cause problems locally leaving communities struggling with the long-term effects of unemployment.
I worked in Dalkeith not long after the coal mines closed and I saw how long it could take for towns reliant on one employer or industry to get back on their feet.
I worry there simply won’t enough money to give everyone the wages they need for the lives they want to lead. I’ve no solutions but I believe we need to have the conversation before the demographics catch up with us all.
Lesley McLeod, chief executive, The Association for Project Safety.