Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Age discrimination

is a curious thing. 
I wouldn't want to suggest that, at 61, someone is "too old" to do something because people do all sorts of things at 61. I know someone who rode his bike across the United States of America at that age. He had "retired" and it was an adventure he wanted to have. He went on to ride his bike in Europe - from Greece to Denmark - before deciding that he was "getting a bit old" for that. He was 76 when he stopped travelling like that. (No, he wasn't married.)
But there are times I wonder about people who do things at a certain age. There is, on the front page of today's paper, a former Senator who would like to make a "comeback" to the Senate. He was in the Senate from 2008 to 2014 but lost his seat at the last election. At the time he said he wasn't considering a return. It seems a little over two years makes a difference. He was once the leader of one of the most powerful unions. I have no doubt he misses the power he once had. The Senate would have been a different sort of adrenalin rush but it would still have given him a sense of doing something. 
Is that what he is looking for? He will, most likely, be second on the ticket after a female with a high profile. He will almost certainly regain his seat.
But is he the right person for the job? Yes, he's only 61. He's an old style unionist. That may well appeal to many who still feel strongly about unions. It will get him in but will he be the right person to help run the country if, as expected, the Opposition is returned to government by a slim majority?
I know other people who have gone on working or returned to work after "retirement". The person who taught me maths at the equivalent of the old "O" level was 77. He knew his subject. He had been teaching it the same way for 57  years. He was stale. We were restive. I sensed he was bored by the whole business but he kept on working because he didn't know what else to do. He was employed in the non-government system so this was possible. He went on working after I left too. He never had a retirement but I doubt he did the best by the students. My English teacher in the same school was in her 70's too. She loved literature but most of her students, from rural areas, saw no point in it at all. She did retire the year after I left - then travelled and read. Some years later she admitted to me that she wished she had retired ten years earlier. 
My paternal grandfather worked well into his 80's. He wanted to retire but people kept asking him to do "just one more uniform" or "just one more suit". Seeing his signature in the list of "visitors" to Government House - because he made both things for many Governors of the state - made me realise how difficult it must have been for him to retire. He cut back the amount of work he did but it wasn't until his eyesight failed that he stopped. 
I wonder though whether all these people would have enjoyed a retirement if the opportunity had been offered. My grandfather regretted not taking his wife on a trip back to Scotland. He regretted not seeing his cousins there and was delighted when the Senior Cat went instead. 
Now we expect people to go on working. We are told "age discrimination" is a bad thing. Perhaps it is if you want to go on working. 
But, I also believe it is necessary to acknowledge the need to make way for younger people. They will have new ideas, more energy - and they can go to their elders and ask advice can't they?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We also have to realise that people who do manual work physically wear out after 40 plus years. They have to retire because they can no longer do the labour. Getting them to retrain for a desk job is not usually an option, as part of the reason they have had manual jobs is a lack of education, or simply never wanted to do the book learning!