What is retirement?

Retirement is a reality like death and taxes, eventually we will find that society wants to push out the older people to make way for younger people to get jobs. Countries may differ when we should retire, but there are very few countries in the world that do not have some form of retirement. More to the point, companies do not wish to employ older people since they perceive the risk to the company becomes higher the older a person gets.. A forced retirement age represents legally allowed age discrimination. A discrimination companies exercise with little compassion. This has spread to society as a whole. The retirement mind-set has created people from 60 years old becoming a lost population group and severely curtailed freedoms.

Yet forced retirement also makes economic sense.

Why retire at the age of 60 to 65?

Germany was the first country to bring in the concept of retirement under Otto Van Bismarck in 1881. The “standard” retirement age varies from country to country but it is generally between 50 and 70. In those days most people did not reach that age, but in the military and certain other professions, pensions were already in place. The notion that ordinary people should be entitled to a retirement was a novel one at that point in time. It caught on as the normal Joe realised that finally there may be something at the end of a hard working life to look forward to.

Studies at that time showed persons mental and physical health would start to deteriorate around 60, re-enforced the retirement age. The fact was very few people were expected to reach the age of 65 years. The country rewarding citizens for a life time of hard work, was popular. The pension environment of giving state pensions had a growth of younger people coming into the workforce while the number of retirees was expected to decrease quite dramatically if they reached retirement age at all.  In 1908, when Lloyd George ensured a payment of five shillings a week for poor men who had reached 70, Britons, were not expected to reach much past 50 years of age. By 1935, when America set up its Social Security system, the official pension age was 65—with 63 years being the lifespan of the typical American. 

After the Second World War, this picture began to change as wealth and better medicine meant that in the post-war boom people started to live longer. Today the average retirement lasts more than a quarter of a century, with individuals expected to live longer in retirement than they did in a working career!

Retirement was a rite of passage!

Retirement is still viewed as a right in many countries. People want to believe that they will be able to give up work and live a life of ease. Baby boomers believed after 40 years of work they were going to find the pot of gold at the end of the retirement rainbow. For most of them this pot of gold was not and will not ever be found. The situation is simply that the state cannot pay a pension that allows such a retirement luxury and as a result state pensions around the world have decreased in real (buying)terms and this picture is unlikely to change.

The changing world

Why did we have such a dramatic change in such a short time?

After the wars women realised that they could become wage earners and have a part in the commercial world. In most countries women were able to obtain an education that exceeded their mother’s expectations. For example although Nikki and I have university education, our mothers would not have qualified for entry into those universities. In fact even though Nikki and I have are close in age, I was brought up in a world where women were expected to get married and have babies, while Nikki was brought up with the knowledge that as an only child of elderly parents she would go to university. The concept of university education in the 50s and 60s for girls was only for the rich or the extremely intelligent. My family educated the boys, but not the girls. In fact when I started to desire education I was given little support from my peer group and my family, who believed I was Godless and unnatural to want to study instead of cleaning and cooking for my family.

Independent and educated ladies rarely want multiple babies. My own girl children were brought up to not only play with dolls but to use computers, study the sciences and practice them. The girls had no doubt in their minds that they would go on to study past their matric year. The pattern I developed in my family was the pattern of most developed countries.  We became the problem children of the state. You must understand the state needed us females to be baby machines to produce in order to keep up the numbers needed to fund the huge baby-boom generation retirement and medical needs as they became unemployable.

We need to look at this phase in history and understand it to be able to understand why we were labelled old from 55 years onwards.

Baby boomers are the generation who were born after the Second World War.  Before World War II the world population was estimated to be around about 2.3 billion. In World War II the world lost 50 to 70 million people, mostly Europeans, including 6 million Jews. This brought the world population down to under 2 billion people. After the war in 1947, an estimated 3.8 million babies were born; 3.9 million were born in 1952; and more than 4 million were born every year from 1954 until 1964, when the baby boom finally tapered off.  This explosion in growth became known as the baby boom and those who were born during this period became known as a baby boomers. Now these babies have begun to retire.

Baby boomers had certain characteristics. They were brought up to believe in hard work, equating work and position with self-worth. The generation was exposed to a multicultural society with the event of television.

Television changed our futures!

Television became available in crude experimental forms in the late 1920 but after World War II, an improved form of black-and-white TV broadcasting became popular in the United States and Britain, and television sets became commonplace in homes, businesses, and institutions.   By the mid-1960s, colour broadcasting was introduced and became common in the US and most other developed countries. Prior to the war people were pretty area bound, this created a situation where those people would grow up using the cultural norms of the areas they grew up in. Television signals that could reach into the most remote corners of the broke down the vestiges of isolation in rural areas and introduced the youth to the new world. Television introduced us to new worlds in our working class living rooms. Children were exposed to imaginations that were unlimited and education that was formerly only the prerogative of the rich. The storage of televised programs started a demand for more programs around the world and television became even more common to e the poorest people in rural areas without signals. Television programming has had a huge impact on world culture with the 1950s as the Golden Age of Television. In the 1950s quiz shows became popular and general knowledge expanded. Women became educated and realised there was a world out there beyond the babies. A world that had art and mountains to climb. Westerns, kids’ shows, situation comedies, sketch comedies, game shows, dramas, news and sports programming took the place of social gatherings and church meetings. Women realised marriage was not the only option for their future but how to stop having babies was the question?

Birth control

We must investigate this since it is the topic of discussion la which we explore in the health section of our series: Yesterday people- the sexy senior citizens guide to a wonderful retirement.

According to the Book of Genesis, the biblical character Onan incurred God’s wrath by  “spilling his seed on the ground.” Ever since then, many devout Jews and Christians have considered it a sin to ejaculate without reproductive possibility, whether by withdrawal, masturbation, or other forms of sex. In ancient China and India it was believed excessive” ejaculation would diminish men’s vigor and they would become less able to have male descendants. Pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, was considered sinful on the whole and good girls just did not enjoy it.

Sexual pleasure as a right for the baby boomers became a hot topic during the 1950s and this is the generation that often carries guilt about a healthy sex life.

Military leaders had a realistic attitude about condom usage in the second world war as they aggressively promoted the use of condoms. Government training films urged soldiers “Don’t forget put it on before you put it in.”

For women, the first permanent birth control clinic was established in Britain in 1921 by the birth control campaigner Marie Stopes, in truth birth control has been around for centuries. Women in ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt used birth control methods. Birth control started to be practiced in larger numbers as the feminist movement argued that women should have control over their reproduction and this movement intensified in the ’60s and ’70s resulting in laws being challenged successfully all over the world. Television helped the education campaigns while religion played a large factor in the sex lives of the church goers with the societal acceptance of birth control. Social acceptance required the separation of sexual activity from procreation. Bear in mind that many countries had laws against birth control. For example: In 1965, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraceptives violated the constitutional “right to marital privacy”. In 1967 France annulled their law outlawing contraception by the Neuwirth Law. In Italy women gained the right to access birth control information in 1970 while the republic of Ireland followed suite in 1980.  Pregnancy prevention was fairly mechanical at this point with cervical caps, condoms and withdrawal being the major methods to prevent it.

The birth control pill was developed in the 1950s and was released as such in the 1960s in the US, although it was illegal in 8 states there. In 1968 the pope. Paul IV stated categorically that Catholics using the pill were committing a sin. However the silver screen gave another message to women. This message was clear. My body, my choice. “Good girls” were willing sex partners, in popular movies. A contraceptive sponge was introduced to the American market in 1983 and quickly became one of the most popular over-the-counter barrier methods.

 Men also enjoyed the freedom from responsibility. The birth control pill enabled relationships that did not have a pre-destined point of marriage. Since sex no longer needed to be the reason for marriage, both men and women started to marry later in life. The career women was being created by society.

Marrying later in life meant the woman had less time to procreate, smaller families became the norm ,  increased income meant these children were given more resources in the developmental years. A generational improvement began as the parents planned a better life for their children.

Tax squeeze

A tax base depends on numbers being born to meet the future needs of society but the government is slow to change, even when the problem is obvious. Governments know removing social benefits is a quick way to lose power. Due to the smaller families the tax base was being lessened naturally. Governments looked elsewhere for the numbers to support the social and political systems in place.

The population started to demand a more wealthy existence than previously experienced.  These requirements were for better health, as well as better unemployment and maternity benefits. Emigration policies were put in place to bring in willing workers. Developed countries increased emigration from countries with high birth rates to meet the tax demands, thinking the extra taxes earned would support the indigenous population. The needs of business changed as businesses became more automated and jobs more specialised, and this gave rise to societal problems with existing citizens becoming disgruntled when instead of supporting the tax base, the emigrants increase the unemployment, demands on state resources and creates its own challenges.

Unaffordable retirement

Around the world countries are raising retirement ages for social welfare. Unfortunately this has come into being at a time when companies are cutting back on workforces due to increased automation and scaling down operations.  Augmenting the problem was the world recession of 2008, when many future retirees lost their wealth. A situation has come into being where people wanting to work and the capabilities of work are at odds with the availability of work. The 50 year pluses are at a strong disadvantage. Many employers remain prejudiced against older workers, and not always without reason: performance in manual jobs does drop off in middle age, and older people are often slower on the uptake and less comfortable with new technology.

Brenda Milner is a neuroscientist, and a professor at Canada’s prestigious McGill University. In the 1950s, she made the revolutionary discovery that memories are formed in a brain area called the hippocampus, which is now getting lots of attention for its role in memory loss and dementia.   At age 99 she is still keeping up with research at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. Brenda has no intentions of retiring.  

It is true that aging means you see things differently to a twenty year old mainly due to experience. Certainly the aging process should be a learning one.

What is old age in the new age?

Healthy aging requires optimal mental, social and physical well-being in a person’s life. This changes the aging process in the body.  Optimal aging is most likely to be achieved when communities are safe, promote health and well-being, and use health services and community programs to prevent or minimize disease.

Charles Eugster, at age 96, is a runner, body-builder, public speaker, writer, rower, and wakeboarder. He holds world records in the 200m (indoor) and 400m (outdoor) sprints, as well as British records in the 60m (indoor), 100m (outdoor), and 200m (outdoor).  He has now become a budding fashion designer, planning his own line in elderly couture.   In an article in Vice written by Matt Blake Apr 11 2016, 4:40pm Charles states: I was 87 and realized my body was deteriorating. I had a muffin-top waist and my muscles were getting weaker and weaker. I felt so old. But because I was so vain, I didn’t like the idea of it at all. So I joined a body-building gym and employed a personal trainer who was a Mr. Universe to rebuild my body from scratch.   He believes people of 70 to 100 years old are the lost population with retirement the biggest killer of old people.   Charles wants to challenge Hidekichi Miyazaki, the 105-year-old Japanese sprinter and is writing a book called 97 and Loving It  

The World Health organisation states that 65 years old is still young.[1]

0-17       years     underage
18-65     years     youth/young
66-79     years     middle-aged
80-99     years     elderly/senior
100+ years old: long-lived elderly

This finding has resulted in a change in the standard retirement age used in the USA of  66 years old and in Canada of 65 years old—both are gradually changing into 67 years.

In order to meet the demand for retirement wealth, private companies created products that were marketed to fill the gap. Unfortunately many of these policies and products benefited the product houses and intermediaries, but not the people they were meant to protect. As a result retirees found themselves economically disadvantaged at a time when they were most vulnerable and social pensions were falling. It is not just the planning which is required for retirement and element of luck is needed too. Life is what happens when we are busy living and sometimes we have forced retirements, retrenchments and other life event which

Many factors affect people’s retirement decisions and the main one is normally monetary.

What would you prefer?

  1. Living with the kids and hoping for food help,
  2. Living on a state pension
  3. Enjoying independence

[1] https://www.mycomlink.co.za/posting.php?i=40501# 20/03/2019

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