When I was young, my parents and everyone they knew talked in terms of 65 being the time to retire. Our medicine, our economy, and most of all our understanding of aging makes that target not only not realistic, but also a tremendous waste of knowledge and resources. Almost everyone recognizes this except our government and insurance companies – our government because politicians can’t think beyond their next election, and insurance companies because by keeping the retirement age low they make out like bandits when they sell disability, extended care, and certain life policies. Their policies are designed to quit providing disabilty income and extended care benefits when you reach social security retirement age of 65-66, long term care benefits traditionally stop at seventy, and life insurance premiums are based on life time acturial tables that lag behind true aging in America.
The government makes you start taking Social Security way too early, and they force you to start raiding your retirement plans before you are ready to access your savings. All of this creates a mind set of putting our most valuable resources out to pasture before their through contributing to society. in our series on public health we will explore our need to rethink the role of elderly in our society. We need to develop an environment where we involve our elders rather than shut them out. We need to facilitate elders giving back their wisdom they’ve extracted from life and not merely rock their remaining life away.
“Society turns away from the aged worker as though he belonged to another species…. Old age exposes the failure of our entire civilization.” — Simone de Beauvoir