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Getting old productively

John Lloyd’s, “Boomers rage against the dying of the light” and Michael Skapinker’s “The purpose of business is to win respect” formed an interesting pair of columns in today’s Financial Times. Lloyd contrasted a picture of a vast number of smelly, senile people nodding off in restaurants while financially supported by a small number of young people with the possibility of those elderly still being productively employed. Skapinker pondered on the purpose of business and moved beyond the notion that it existed for the purpose of just making money and concluded that it should all be about “making profits and serving customers by doing something we can be proud of.” I would have put the profits at the end of that sentence or even left it out altogether. Profit, after all, is no different than wages and interest — it is the return that one gets from doing something — not an end in itself. So, a better version of the purpose of business is simply to serve customers by doing something we can be proud of.  My sense is that purpose ties back nicely to the continued involvement of the elderly. If we are to get through the autumnal passage of the large contingent of baby boomers, then it is essential that all hands be on deck and if everyone is doing something that they can be proud of in serving others, then this involvement could be meaningful for all involved. After writing this, I heard Judith Warner on NPR talking about the pharmaceuticals saying, “Well one can’t fault the drug companies — they’re in the business of making money.” Oh dear, how sad, I thought!

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