Monday, June 29, 2009

Saying "No Thanks" to Bingo and Shuffleboard

This post is inspired in part by a recent post on Right-Side-of-Lowell about a study regarding people's activity levels in old age, which have been negatively correlated with the onset of dementia.

I commented to that post to basically say that: a) I think the entire idea that workers -- especially those of us who don't make a living through strenuous manual labor -- should be entitled to stop working and sit around drawing benefits for the last quarter of our life is preposterous; and that b) when I think about all the directions my life could go in the next several decades, the LAST thing I ever want to think about is sitting around playing bingo or sipping cocktails on a Caribbean beach (for longer than a week, that is).

Yesterday, I heard someone at my church basically say the same thing. A spry, vibrant lady about to hit the ripe age 0f 70, she talked about how a lot of people reach these arbitrary, milestone sort of birthdays and basically just "decide to be old," thereby resigning themselves to their demise. I know that goes against hard science, and sounds a bit folksy, but I like it, and I think studies like the one mentioned on RSOL back it up.

So it was great for me to open the Economist this week and see the special on aging, in which the esteemed British periodical did some sacred cow slaying (and though cheerleader and non-controversial blogger I may be, I'm a huge fan of anything that challenges conventional wisdom).

Changing life expectancies and the *softening* of the average American's work environment have greatly changed the rationale behind retirement ages, but this is one of those great policy issues where politics gets in the way. Despite everyone and their mother being an avowed *fiscal conservative,* people know which side their bread is buttered on, and the aged tend to vote in droves. From the magazine:

Retirement has been overdone. The original idea was that people should enjoy a bit of a rest after a life at work, but nobody imagined that the rest would stretch to almost a quarter-century. Some countries have already raised their official retirement age; others are debating whether it still makes sense to have a specific retirement age at all. One widely touted idea is to phase in retirement over a number of years. It does not seem like a good idea for people to be working at full tilt one day and twiddling their thumbs the next.

Admittedly, there are points added for balance, such as the idea that some abilities really do decrease after middle-age, and that companies have more incentives to hire younger workers. I also want to acknowledge that there's a middle-ground between full-time employment and endless "Price is Right" reruns -- someone could, for instance, work part-time doing defense consulting and research, attend formal classes, and blog prolifically.

I can only speak for one person -- not a generation, not a mindset, not even direct family members. I also try not to go to heavy on the theology stuff here on this blog (and besides, there's not TOO much to say, my beliefs on that are pretty simple).

That having been said, the LAST thing I ever fantasize about or even envision doing is...nothing at all.

That's just not my goal, and I don't think it's why I was put here.

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