Told To Be Old
Clearly there comes a day when a team from the government comes to your home or office and holds a meeting with you via a Powerpoint presentation, wherein they explain that you’ve been reclassified as an Old. They then reveal their plan for your future, which will involve becoming invisible, being ignored, sidelined and patronised.
The prospect of hitting 65 this year is frankly absurd. In the press this week, the brilliant Sheila Hancock talked about starring in the new version of ‘Harold & Maude’ onstage, pointing out that they finished rehearsals at 11:00pm and she had to be back in at nine the next morning, and as she’s 85 she’s a tad tired.
The psychological age and the pensionable age are both gently shifting back, but there’s a problem in the workplace; many friends are finding their high-flying careers being prematurely ended at around 50, not because they lack skills but because their companies now find them replaceable with less expensive, younger staff – of course they have to find ways around the employment laws, and do so with ruthless efficiency. The new staff are not exactly drawn from all walks of life, either; they’re middle and upper-middle class graduates supported by well-off parents.
In 1910 the life expectancy was 50, but the average retirement age was 74. In 2000 the first figure had risen to 73 and the second had dropped to 62. I retired from my day job of running company at 52, but am working a six-day week of, on average, 10 hours a day at a much lower salary – but I’m happier. One of my best friends, a very young-looking and very fit 51, has just been bumped out of his job after an American company took over and decided he was too old. Of course, it wasn’t phrased in that fashion.
Over the last 20 years, the average expected retirement period has risen from 14.8 years to 18.8 years for a 65 year old male, and from 18.5 years to 21.2 years for a 65 year old female. So, you have another twenty years in which to regret giving up work.
Because this is the other thing; you’ll be eased from public view at fifty and will also find it impossible to get another job at anything remotely like your old salary. I’m lucky in that I work for myself and continue as long as I see fit (or stay fit), but I have friends who now simply have nothing to do, no jobs on the horizon and no way of saving. The creative industry is particularly cruel; it rewards simply for being young.
We hear a lot about Millennials being unable to buy properties while the older generation selfishly hoards, but in my experience there are a great many who have been encouraged to save by governments only to find that their savings are now worthless and their pensions have gone. The culprit here is the lack of social mobility, worse in the UK now than in the late Victorian era. According to the Financial Times, race, mobility and class are barriers to any kind of C-class job, so that corporate careers continue to be provided for a perceived ‘officer class’.
BTW, the hands at the top of the page are a stock shot that gets run in every newspaper in the UK whenever there’s an article on ageing; it’s insulting, lazy and inaccurate. Below, the author as unemployable washed-up pensioner.