Retirement – a different paradigm

There are any number of articles flying around the Web that talk about the coming crises that Baby Boomer retirement is going to bring. And crises there will be if we continue to look at retirees as redundant. (Thanks Otto von Bismarck for putting a “sell-by” date (65) on human usefulness – that was in 1880 and we cling to the same mentality in 2016.)

Then, life expectancy was to 62, so very few people got there, and a country’s need for a pension provision was negligible. Now our life expectancy is 76 and rising. Most people are going to outlive their pension – so today’s 40 year olds are being handed a big problem.

We have a strange idea about retirees – that we are old, and old people don’t know anything. But we have a “long view” – over the 40 years of our working life we’ve seen good times and bad times, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, we’ve seen and made good decisions and poor decisions.

How would it be if we saw retirees for what we really are – a whole lot of experience and knowledge wrapped up in a progressively looser skin? How would it be if we understood that retirement is not only an ending – it is also a beginning?

Amongst us there are craftsmen, teachers, lawyers, CEOs, company directors, farmers, politicians, priests, doctors – highly qualified, highly experienced. How would it be if we were to apply our minds to the major crises facing mankind – global warming, environmental degradation, poverty, violence against women, human trafficking ….? If not us, who? Who else has the time, experience and connections to get things done? We “just” need to see retirement differently and we need to see ourselves differently. We have at least 10 good years when we can really make a difference in the world.

And it’s not only at the top end where we can make that difference. Our teachers are groaning under the responsibility for providing quality education amidst a staggering burden of administration. How would it be if we took on that administrative role? That would free up the teachers to teach. And the contact with the kids would keep us on our toes.

This coming crisis of aging Boomers? Why are we waiting for someone else to come up with some answers? We need Carers, Social Workers, Nurses, Drivers, Shoppers and Home Cooked meals. We can do all of that. And the bonus is that other people need that stuff as well – single parents, latch-key kids, the ill, the Night Shelters.

And where are our voices raised in protest at injustice, inefficiency, corruption?

None of these interventions is an exercise in “keeping the oldies busy”. Without our intervention, we and our planet are in trouble. We are already in trouble – and we are allowing the brains and skills of yesterday’s generation to go to waste.

For more articles by Alan Maguire click on his name below.

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