You won't retire at 65, but that's OK

With the retirement age continuing to rise in the UK, Andrew Cruickshank recounts his experience of working into old age.

In my teens, I had this picture in my head of retirement. It was of a man well past his useful working life, and fit only to tend to the garden, or do DIY around the house. In my head, this all suddenly happened at 65. This man essentially became 'useless' overnight.

The larger companies once had this policy; it was to 'let you go’ at 65 with a rousing cheer and a clock for the mantelpiece. A clock was possibly the last thing you would need in retirement of course and, ironically, you could say that time is the biggest destroyer of life in general.

We all struggle to find enough time to do all the things required of us in daily life as we chase careers and that elusive salary that will finally balance the books.

As such, the people and things that we care about the most suffer, tensions rise, relationships reach breaking point, and the children grow-up knowing only family life on the weekend. Or worse, the family is split-up and normal life is living with relatives and seeing each parent on the second Saturday of the month.

As always, the pendulum of life swings from one side to the other and we now have a situation where those mature/ seniors/ OAPs are not thrown on the scrap heap at a certain age, but are instead allowed to continue in their roles as if no milestone has been passed. There is no clock on the mantelpiece, no rousing farewell.

Their wealth of knowledge and experience is not wasted, but instead utilised in a way not previously recognised. It is not a case of 65 and out, but rather 65 and 'carry on'.

And from a work perspective there are benefits for organisations; This person does not have to be trained, retrained or endlessly interviewed for a position that they know backwards, and most can adapt to new technologies and compliances with minimal training.

The spin-off of this ‘forward’ thinking is a person who is alive to the real world, sociable and receptive to others, able to bring a different perspective to the workspace and also add a new dimension to the thinking of the younger workers who can learn from the values of a past era that was so successful in so many ways.

The old person, so to speak, is no longer on the scrapheap.


My story

I am 73 years old and I am so happy to have a purpose in life where I feel that I am making a contribution to a company. I am still learning and absorbing knowledge.

I work for two companies filling my five-day working week. Both jobs are very different but, as I am working in maintenance, they are both similar in many ways.

Health and Safety may be dirty words to many but I remember the old days when no safeguards existed and you had to look out for yourself and no one else was responsible for your wellbeing or safety. Now thank goodness things have changed.

Now I can see, with the advantage of many years of experience, where savings can be made, where money is well spent and often where companies are heading for disaster.

I have a purpose in life and I am rewarded for my efforts which help me to be independent and contribute to the household bills, which in turn allow me to occupy a place in society where I feel useful -- and not a burden.

There will come a time when I am unable to do the physical side of my work and therefore I may be redundant to the company. I recognise this and hope that my approach to my working life will enable me to continue into later life when only my thoughts are of value.


Work till you drop….

The pension in the UK is the lowest in Europe so there's no hope for the non-working OAP unless they are fortunate to have a final salary pension, which has now been scrapped.

When one becomes old, the person inside stays the same as when they were 25 years old. Age after all is just a hindrance to life, and not an end to all thought and adventure. Indeed, when one does become 'old', that desire and adventure does not simply disappear.

There are health benefits too of working longer; the NHS is now run as pyramid sales scheme where you pay in all your life and, when the time comes to claim, you are accused of taking advantage of the system and contributing to running it into debt. So, by continuing to work, maybe one is keeping old age at bay and therefore saving resources for others, while still paying into the system.

The sad point about this situation is that the youngsters need the jobs that the older generation just cannot vacate. Maybe we can train the next generation and our pensions can reflect this sacrifice.


Resetting expectations

Who would have thought 20 years ago that 70 year olds could run marathons, or ride in cycling tours and go body building and, in some cases, still father children?

Bob Dylan is a fine example of maturing as he is still performing to large audiences all over the world. Leonard Cohen wrote some of his best work at a very senior age and was packing them in right up until his death. Sir Paul McCartney, at 75 years old, is still very much in demand for TV and live performances.

Maybe the real key to all of this is the brain, which needs to stay responsive and thirsty for knowledge. Health is the main constraint; if one can walk, drive and be independent, then the battle can continue well into old age; that ever shifting line in the sand.

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