Retiring retirement

Even though The Holy Bible in Psalm 90 implies a lifespan for humans at “three score and ten,” that is, 70 years, an increasing number of Canadians are living for many years beyond that age. Along with extended longevity, a growing number are choosing to postpone retirement or keep on working indefinitely.

The Royal Bank of Canada’s Editorial Page has contained the following. “Retirement at age 65 is a yardstick that has been handed down from previous generations and embedded into rules such as those affecting company pension plans. Today’s 65-year olds are far more active and involved than their parents. Nor are they subject to mandatory retirement laws of yesteryear.”

Similarly, a photograph taken in 1948 of a group of university alumni aged about 65 revealed that those men looked far older than those of a similar age nowadays.

Previous generations suffered from the 1930’s Depression and the Second World War, which obviously took a toll on most people. Also, few made a conscious effort to be physically fit, in contrast to those at present. Compulsory retirement at age 65 is becoming illegal, and numbers of Canadians no longer wish to retire at that age. It must be recognized, too, that work in previous times usually required physical labour and stamina on assembly lines, in mining operations, and on farms.

The past several decades have been extremely prosperous, enabling many Canadians to put aside a comfortable reserve, so that those who wish to retire from a particular job can follow other careers.

The American Association of Retired People has interviewed many people and reported that the primary reason for potential retirees to keep working is “the desire to stay mentally and physically active.” Some work at fields unrelated to their previous employment, perhaps volunteering for charitable enterprises, working on a hobby, or pursuing a dream of travel.

Other societies, notably the Japanese, use retired people regularly. In fact, it is a commonplace occurrence for a bureaucrat who retires to work later for an organization that he has been supervising.

Some workers now wish to prolong their working careers as aging baby boomers are beginning to exit the workforce. Hence, senior workers likely will grow as a percentage of the labour force in the coming years. Consequently, employers should be prepared to meet the needs of their older staff employees.

Older people with many years of experience can be very useful. As the saying goes, those who cannot remember the past are going to repeat its mistakes. In a word, we soon may be retiring retirement.


Bruce Whitestone