Aging and Retirement

Aging and retirement are intrinsically linked now. In the distant past, people worked until they dropped.

It was only during the Great Depression that, desperate to make room in the workforce for young workers, governments, unions, and employers institutionalized retirement programs as we know them today, complete with social security and pension plans.

This arrangement gave people some time to be free of commitments and be at leisure. The retirement age was designated around 60 and this age was longer than the life expectancy at that time. Over the years, life expectancies have increased, due to advances in medicine, sanitation and safety, leaving more years to spend after retirement. As a result people/ retirees are spending a life at leisure equivalent to their spent working life. Many of the retirees seem bored and restless, and work full time or part-time for various reasons. Many wish to learn, grow, try new things, and be productive indefinitely, through a combination of commercial, volunteer, and personal pursuits. They enjoy the sense of self-worth that comes with contributing to a business or other institution, and they enjoy the society of their peers. The workplace is their primary social affiliation. People identify strongly with their work, their disciplines, and their careers.

For all these reasons, the notion of retirement as it is traditionally practised — a onetime event that permanently divides work life from leisure—no longer makes sense.

Who is an aged person? Or how old is old? There is now a changing view of the aged. But we do not challenge facts: being old is evidently the number of years since your birth, it is how much more effort it takes to walk up a long hill (Colline Candos for example), it is also when society tells you you’re old.

Ken Dychtwald, a renowned gerontologist suggests a change in the way we look at old age and proposes categories:

Middle scence: 40-60 years of age

Late adulthood: 60-80, and

Old Age: 80 – 100.

The traditional constraints that say ‘if you are 50 you can’t do that, if you are 60 you can’t do that or at 90 you can’t do that’ is fading. Times are changing:

Yuichiro Miura climbed Mount Everest at age 70. John Glenn at age 77 flew the space shuttle Discovery. Paul McCartney became father at the age of 60. And history is replete with cases like these. It becomes evident that the individual can give a rethink to his old age category. In the circumstance should not effective retirement follow suit?

* Published in print edition on 13 May 2016

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