Sunday, November 9, 2008

To hell with retirement!

Yesterday's feature article in the Dominion Post on Dargaville electrician Tom McKay, who is still working at 101, makes one wonder about the almost universal acceptance of retirement at the age of 65 - and death at some time in the subsequent 15 years.

When I started work at the Manawatu Standard, a daily newspaper in Palmerston North, there was a compulsory retirement age of 60. The thinking in the 1970s was that a person was both physically and mentally incapable, after that age, of doing a decent day's work. If they pressed on, they would be too slow, and too easily confused by the demands of the task in hand, to be of much use to their employer.

I remember my amazement, on being told by the editor that Reporter X was 70 - and had just been given a year's notice of termination of employment. How could one work at 70? The mere fact that he wanted to continue to work seemed to be evidence of advanced senility.

Of course, my thinking had changed by the time I reached the age of 65. But I retired anyway, mainly because I found the 5am starts intolerable. Getting up at 4am on a cold winter morning, driving through the predawn darkness, hoping the office computer system would be up, and then working like mad to meet the 8am deadline, wasn't my idea of fun.

But when, after four months of retirement, the telephone rang, and I was offered work at more reasonable hours, I couldn't wait to pack my little rucksack with my sandwiches. And nearly three years later, I am still going into the office nearly every weekday - and still having no difficulty in finding errors and illogicalities in the copy of our reporters.

I don't think I have taken a day off sick since the 1990s. Yet I occasionally get a letter from Southern Cross, my health insurer, that informs me that I have moved up into an age bracket in which, inevitably, people make greater use of health services, and that I must therefore pay a higher monthly premium.

Needless to say, I find these letters a little irritating.

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