In its World Population Aging (2009), the United Nations (UN) envisioned the arrival of an era in which humans would have an average lifespan of 100 years. The emergence of the new term “homo hundred” in Korea supports this prediction. According to a press release by Statistics Korea last year, the average lifespan of Koreans has now become as long as 82.4 years.
With the increasing average lifespan and aging of the population, Korean society is now forced to adopt a new paradigm for life after 50. In the past, people in their 50s and 60s could expect to retire early and enjoy a brief span of leisure before their death. In today’s aging society, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to fulfill this expectation. There is growing social pressure toward being as active and productive in the latter half of our lives as we were in the first half. Today, Korea’s aging society is forced to reckon with new prospects for middle-aged life.
|Leaders of the country’s industrialization||50+ generation|
South Korea is one of the most rapidly aging societies in the world today. The number of 100-year-olds in Korea is expected to multiply from 2,386 in 2012 to 10,000 by 2030, reaching 20,000 by 2040. Korean baby boomers (aged 50 to 64), born after the Korean War, currently make up 20 percent (or about 10.47 million) of the total national population and 21.7 percent (or 2.14 million) of the citywide population of Seoul, forming the largest age cohort in Korea. According to a study conducted last year by the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), the average retirement age among residents of Seoul is 53. However, the vast majority of these retirees are not adequately prepared for post-retirement life.
These baby boomers in Korea are also known as the “caught-in-between” generation, as they face the dilemma of having to support their elderly parents, on the one hand, and their not-yet-independent children, on the other. This has made it highly difficult for baby boomers to plan and prepare for their own old age. In the meantime, the lowering of the retirement age and aging of the population in general have raised to the risk of post-retirement income losses.
|Seoul announces “50+ Support Package”||50+ Campus Northwest unveiled to the public|
In June 2016, Seoul became the first local government in Korea to announce its own comprehensive and systemic policy for supporting middle-aged citizens. Seoul’s “50+ Support Package” aims to help people in their 50s transform their uncertain post-retirement future into a new golden age of their lives. Acknowledging the 50+ generation’s fear of the future, desire to continue working, and need for a sense of belonging, the 50+ Support Package seeks to complete the support infrastructure for the middle-aged, including new learning programs, jobs, and cultural support. The three main pillars of the policy package are the 50+ Foundation, 50+ Campuses, and 50+ Centers.
The 50+ Foundation, launched in April 2016, is the central command and brain of the 50+ Support Package. It is charged with the tasks of researching, planning, and developing various policy programs for the middle-aged and establishing a wide-ranging system of cooperation.
|50+ Campus (Seobuk Counseling Center)||50+ Campus Cooking Class|
In Phase 2 of the support policy, the city established a network of six 50+ Campuses across the city to provide specialized education and vocational training for middle-aged citizens. This citywide platform will enable such citizens to discover and adopt new models of post-retirement life through education, new jobs, and various social and cultural activities. Seoul’s objective is to introduce “Encore Career,” a policy aimed at helping individuals achieve self-actualization, social involvement, and work-life balance. Having opened this year with 260 educational courses, the 50+ Campuses across Seoul aim to increase the number of courses on offer to 4,000 and produce a total of 200,000 graduates over the next five years.
The 19 50+ Centers across Seoul serve as grassroots-level venues for middle-aged citizens to get the information they need and become involved in local activities. These centers have been tasked with supporting 350,000 participants over the next five years by providing the “50+ Life Academy” programs, featuring intensive education and training courses tailored to citizens’ specific needs, and the “50+ Consultant” service.
The 50+ Life Academy helps people plan and redesign their post-50 lives focusing on a number of areas, including time management, relationships, housing, sexuality, future society, travel, economics and finance, and work. The objective of the academy is to educate and produce 300 professional and experienced middle-aged consultants who will go on to help other fellow middle-aged participants at the 50+ Centers and Lifelong Learning Centers across Seoul.
Having first opened with 600 courses on offer in 2016, the 50+ Centers will increase the number of courses to 11,000 and produce a total of 154,000 graduates over the next five years.
Korean baby boomers in their 50s, which make up 20 percent (or about 10.47 million) of the country’s population and 21.7 percent (or about 2.14 million) of Seoul’s population, face the task of planning the second chapter of their lives and careers based on thorough self-reflection.
The SMG intends to support them in their self-exploration and life planning with more than just classes and training. The 50+ Campus Seobuk Center, located in Eunpyeong-gu, comprises a counseling center and reading café on the first floor; classrooms, business spaces, and an open common area on the second; and an auditorium, music room, and fitness room on the fourth; accommodating a wide range of student activities.
|Floor||Features and amenities||Remarks|
|1||Salon, counseling center, conference room (for the Seoul Community Support Center), etc.||Common areas|
|2||Office space, three classrooms, incubating space, coworking space, etc.||Common areas|
|3||Seoul Community Support Center|
|4||Multipurpose hall (lobby), auditorium, classroom, music room, etc.|
50+ Campus Seobuk Center: Overview
The campus is made up of four departments: Life Redesign, Career Exploration, Daily Crafts, and Community Plus. Every course is designed with a focus on field experience and student-led assignments rather than lectures.
The counseling center on the first floor is staffed by 14 50+ Consultants, who consult with clients free of charge. After the initial counseling, in which clients’ talents and aptitudes are identified, these consultants help their clients find the resources and opportunities they need, including jobs, volunteering opportunities, and cooperatives.
The 50+ Life Academy offers mandatory and free-semester-style credit courses through which participants may explore and articulate new visions for the second chapter of their lives. The 50+ Campuses across Seoul provide a host of classes that have been designed to help participants find work in new fields, such as travel planning, IT, and professional instruction and training.
“Encore Career” is the slogan for Seoul’s policy of supporting middle-aged citizens in their efforts to find new work after their retirement. The policy features “jobs for social causes,” created through city government funding, as well as regular jobs at private-sector workplaces. Over the next five years, until 2020, the city intends to create 12,000 new “jobs for social causes,” including jobs involving the provision of social services, resolution of local school and community problems; and offering of assistance to fellow middle-aged baby boomers in planning and redesigning their post-retirement lives, as well as positions as 50+ Encore Fellows and smart screenwriters.
Seoul has also launched the Seoul Encore Fellowship, which targets retirees of large corporations and financial institutions and helps them find new post-retirement work where they can apply their extensive experience and knowledge. Originally launched and managed successfully by IBM and Intel, the Encore Fellowship involves dispatching re-trained retirees to nonprofit organizations and social economy enterprises to provide consultations on matters related to IT, accounting, and finance.
The city also plans to introduce new jobs that serve to address the changes occurring in society at large. In anticipation of Seoul reaching the milestone of attracting over 20 million visitors and tourists to the city on an annual basis, the city government is planning to encourage and support retired, middle-aged baby boomers to manage urban accommodation businesses or become culture and history curators. Retirees can also apply their experience and expertise to the establishment of local food managers and cooperatives that assist rural communities and struggling small businesses to find new channels of marketing and the workers they need.
It is not uncommon to find retirees sitting around, either in groups or alone, in cafés. The lack of places to go and spend time is a major concern among middle-aged citizens. In last year’s Fact-Finding Survey into the Needs of the 50+ Generation conducted by the SMG, 55.6 percent of respondents pointed out the need for spaces exclusively for the use of middle-aged citizens.
The 50+ Campuses serve as central gathering places for such retirees. People of the same age group naturally tend to gather at these campuses and share their common interests and concerns, forming communities of their own.
The campuses provide a wide range of facilities and support for the research, club activities, and gatherings of participants. Available support measures include monthly subsidies for the activities of 20 or so retiree clubs or communities that are intent on learning, gaining more experiences, writing and artistic creation, and volunteering. Moreover, the campuses provide shared workspaces for retirees that wish to establish or have already established new businesses. These shared workspaces are currently being used by four teams of 17 aspiring entrepreneurs who were chosen through a tenant screening process in May.
Tel. 02-372-5050 (50+ Campus Seobuk Center).