Are you past your prime at 50?
Recently, my colleagues and I had lunch with a former political office-holder and something he said shocked me.
He told us casually that his time had passed, and the future belonged to the next generation.
This man was about 50 but he was speaking like 69-year-old Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese leader who told Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989: "We're old, it doesn't matter to us anymore."
I doubt he is alone. Many on the wrong side of 50 consider themselves over the hill. Our politicians and commentators appear to talk more about young people than about adults in their 30s or 40s.
The civil service retires perfectly lucid permanent secretaries with full heads of black hair in their late fifties in the name of renewal. Tales abound of employers considering older workers unfavourably.
It does seem that many Singaporeans feel far too old, far too young.
This might be understandable in the past, when the economic burden fell disproportionately on those in their 30s and 40s. With each successive cohort of school-leavers better educated than the last, it might even be fair to think of our economic and demographic futures in terms of those younger than us.
And with each successive birth cohort larger than the previous, politically, the centre of gravity has moved steadily to those younger.
But in time to come, that will no longer be the case. Since the early 1990s, the number of births each year have been shrinking - from about 51,000 in 1990, to about 39,000 today.
One-off gains in education, in terms of putting people through secondary school, have been reaped.
Even with more university places opening up, with those places possibly diverting people from degrees in private school and overseas universities, each cohort is likely to contain people not significantly more educated than the last.
The current median age of Singapore's population is 39. But that will rise to 47 in 2030, according to National Population and Talent Division estimates, if we assume no immigration and stagnant fertility rates.
Is it then still wise to think of people beyond 50 as past it? Can we still hold on to our relentless pursuit of renewal?
I am 25, and in this ongoing National Conversation, people are speaking of my generation as the future of Singapore. Fair enough, as people in our 30s and 40s, we're likely to form the backbone of the economy and society in 2030.
But if we have another such conversation in 2030, we may still have to talk of ourselves as the future, given that we might still be younger than half the population.
We are likely to be economically, and electorally, the centre of the country. And our parent's generation - a large proportion of them will still be alive, and a good number of them, will still be economically active.
So we do need to re-think our definition of "old". We need to watch the language we use, taking care when it comes to loaded terms like "middle aged", "youth" and "older".
We need to focus on what people can do, rather than what they can't. We need to give the "present" generation as much attention, as we do the "future" one.
We do need a more inclusive definition of "future generation", to reflect the full range of people who will inhabit that time.
Because the economic reality is, with fewer young people, we're going to need those older to work longer and harder.
And part of achieving that is making them feel that their time has yet to come, and not that it has come and gone.
The Government can start by keeping faith with those older. We have a particularly young civil service compared to others around the world, and it wouldn't hurt for the more senior civil servants to hang around a little longer.
We can convince the younger ones to wait for a little longer, by making the rise in pay as they move up the hierarchy a bit less drastic.
We can also re-think the life-cycle - perhaps create an employment culture that allow employees to ease off for about a decade off in their 30s to raise their children, before coming back to fulfill their professional potential in their 50s and 60s.
We need a culture of never-too-late, rather than one that constantly worries about missing the boat.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to ensure renewal. Many would even suggest that succession planning is a far greater problem than premature obsolescence.
But in the end, it is a matter that comes back to a question of what kind of society we want to be.
Is it one where everyone of all ages feels like they have a stake, where young and old feel like they have an important part to play?
Or is it one where people spend almost half their lives feeling like their time has passed?