Alan Wright - New ways of life for the old

THE recent news that compulsory retirement at 65 is to be ended must have set many people thinking – right across the age spectrum.

Like all big changes in long-standing practices, it’s far from simple, but it will lead to a system which fits better into the modern world.

Going back a generation or two, the transition from school to work to retirement was very predictable for many people.

Certainly many people of my grandparents’ generation would expect to do the same job, often for the same employer, for their whole working lives.

In those days, of course, the eagerly anticipated retirement years after the 65th birthday would be quite short.

Today, happily, life can continue for decades after that landmark age and, as we heard in the news recently, reaching the century is becoming almost commonplace.

In harsh financial terms, a country’s financial planning would once have expected most people to draw a state pension for a comparatively short spell – compared to the quarter century or more which is often the case today.

The big snag, of course, is that many young people will find it hard to get into the job market if there are fewer and fewer vacancies being created in the older workforce.

I wonder if we need to look at a solution which is more grey than black and white.

Many older friends around Hartlepool dread the idea of doing nothing, even when formal retirement comes calling.

In the middle of our working years, the end of the tyranny of the alarm clock and the daily grind sounds like a great prospect.

Look at what’s already happening though.

I can think of many people in our town who, even though officially not employed, give a great deal to our community in various forms of voluntary and informal projects.

The old system would presume a massive change from being a worker on your last day of employment on the Friday to being an old age pensioner come Monday morning.

Perhaps what we really need is a blend where the talents and experience of the older workforce can be rewarded with a combination of pay and pension as hours or work are gradually, not suddenly, reduced.

This could also mean that younger and older generations could work better together and produce social as well as economic benefits.

For young people at the start of their working lives, looking ahead nearly fifty years takes some doing, but they are the generation who are going to need to come up with new ways of life for older people.