Renaming The Pensions Debate As The ‘Right To Work’ Debate
All the evidence is that most people in the U.K. are living longer and more healthily. They often take up new activities and lead self-sufficient lives into their 80s and even 90s. Why then are some commentators viewing The Turner Report’s proposals to increase the retirement age through the perspective of the past, not the future?
It’s amazing how many very elderly people one sees during social visits over the festive season. Just in the course of the last few days I’ve in some way encountered half a dozen or more close family and friends who are over 85, and some of them over 90 – and all still holding their own nicely, thank you very much.
Looking back, I’m sure that years ago meeting anyone much over the age of 80 was really quite the exception – and it turns out this isn’t just my memory playing tricks. The Guardian leader of 27 December tells us that average life expectancy has increased by two years in every decade for the past two centuries.
And then I read today that women even more than men use the internet to keep in touch – and men more than women use it to find out new things. But the most striking thing of all is that (in the U.S.A. at least) two thirds of both men and women are internet users…. and we all know that silver surfers – internet users aged 50+ – are increasing in numbers all the time, so that over a third of people aged up to 64 are now on-line, and many of these find it invaluable.
The future will be techno, but will it be work?
What are we to make of this? There seems to be ample evidence that age is not now necessarily an obstacle to learning to do things one wants to do, at least as long as the resources are there to do it. It’s patently obvious that age itself is no longer the sole determinant of what people can do.
All of which leads me to ponder, along with many others, why there’s so much fuss in some quarters about raising the retirement age as a general policy. (Always assuming that people who for some reason are unwell or whatever will, as before, be able to retire earlier.)
Judging the future by the standards of the past
If people want to carry on linking in with others, or learning and trying new things, why can’t they do this at work as well as in their leisure time? Those who decry the new thinking on work and pensionable age (The Turner Report) are judging the future by the standards of the past.
Looking forward, many of us will be able to choose to maintain our health and activity for much longer than, say, most of our grandparents. And if part of this activity is earning money to maintain ourselves in the style to which older people are now becoming accustomed, that looks fair enough too.