(Fast Company) Change the Game: Add Aging to the Parent-Centric Work+Life Debate

The other day, as I read Sharon Meers’ (author of Getting to 50/50) clear and compelling article in The Washington Post, “How Joe Biden Can Help Working Parents,” I had two conflicting reactions:

  1. First was, “Go Sharon!” because she did a great job laying out the powerful data that support why we all benefit from helping parents manage their work and life. And she honestly addressed the common roadblocks that get in the way. But then …
  2. I thought “Are we still having this same conversation 15 years later?!” You see, I could dig back through my files and probably find a similar article making many of the same arguments from 1990.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the power of parenthood alone to catalyze a radical change in the way business, individuals and government approach work and life is limited.

No matter how many smart people, like Meers or Vice President Biden, join in the conversation, no matter how many pieces of research objectively state the need and benefits, we just can’t seem to move the needle.

We need a game changer. We need something that breaks us out of the rut we’ve been stuck in for 20 years and takes the debate to the next level. We need an issue that drives home the reality that finding new and better work+life strategies is not optional, or a “nice thing to do in good times.”

We need … to include the aging population. Why? It’s one of the greatest challenges both those who are aging and their caregivers (and, in turn, employers) are going to face in terms of the sheer number of people affected. Turns out, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Last week in The New York Times, David Brooks ranked “the aging population” first in the list of “deep fundamental problems” we are facing as a county.

As the parent of two beautiful children and as someone who can recite the bottom line benefits of work+life strategies in her sleep, am I frustrated that the argument for supporting parents hasn’t been enough to make more meaningful change happen? Yes, very.

But I’m also a realist who knows that at the end of the day change happens when people understand the “WIFM” or what’s-in-it-for-me. Adding the challenges of an aging population to the argument expands the base of people who “get it” and who are, therefore, invested in seeking solutions.

Here are some of the reasons I believe the work+life debate will finally get teeth if we add the challenges of aging. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well: (Click here for more)