No sooner have we grown up than we start growing old – a melancholy reflection for which we can thank Spa! (Feb 12-19).
You’re 20 years old, and working, let’s say, for a moving company, carrying heavy furniture into and out of houses, into and out of trucks. It’s hard physical labor, but you’re young, your body exults in its strength. Exhausting it may be, but it’s a good, healthy exhaustion that sends you deep into sleep at night, from which you awake refreshed, renewed, reborn in a sense.
You don’t ask yourself, “How long can I keep doing this?” You assume forever. Youth is like that. Enter Spa!, with its warning: Muscular strength peaks at 20. It may be years before you notice it, but the time always comes, sometimes sooner, sometimes later – usually before you’re ready to, or can afford to, retire. By 40, on average, you’ve had it. If you haven’t made alternate plans, you’re punishing your body beyond what it can take without damage. Laborers beware, says Spa! in effect. Line up something less physically stressful for your post-40 working life.
The magazine’s theme is age limits. They occur throughout life, and apply to almost anything you’re doing. Whatever it is, you can’t do it forever.
Love, for instance. When does a man grow too old for the pursuit of love? Never, one likes to think, but a dose of realism may be salutary. Suppose you’re single at 40. Must you give up on marriage? By no means. But an informal poll Spa! does with 200 women in their 20s bears consideration. For 27 percent of respondents, men are desirable as dates and prospective husbands up to age 40. Asked about men of 45, only 4 percent of the women were positive. One probably speaks for many when she says, “I’d hesitate to go with a guy old enough to be my father.”
Of course, one poll – an informal one at that – is not the whole story, and Spa! itself introduces counter-evidence. The dating agency Rooters reports a surge within the past year or two of young women competing for limited places in arranged parties for men aged from the 40s into the 50s. Why? The number one reason given is “kindness.” Experience, when not too bitter, can breed a deep kindness that is rare in young men. A second reason, scarcely less important, is more material and less debatable: financial stability. Not all older men have it these days, of course, but enough still do to make the age group interesting.
Consider, now, age and the work place. Age used to be an asset. Lifetime employment – from graduation to retirement – was characteristic of postwar corporate Japan, until the bubble of the 1980s burst in the early ’90s. Promotions were regular, almost ritualistic – section head by 40, division chief by 50, and so on. The ’90s recession and globalization put an end to that. Now, Spa!’s researchers find, only 15.5 percent of employees in their 40s and 50s rank as executive. The rest are “lifetime rank-and-filers,” and in fact, the magazine says, if you haven’t cracked the executive barrier by age 35, your days of rising are probably over.
If that matters to you, advises personnel consultant Shigeyuki Jo, you should consider moving to a smaller company. Small and midsize firms are more open, it seems, to aging talent. With them, you would have until, on average, age 48 to make the executive grade. Keep in mind this, though – the older you get, the harder it becomes to change jobs. Act fast – but not too fast. Pitfalls at every turn.© Japan Today