Just who came up with this number? Who are we listening to, if we decide to comply?
German Chancellor Otto von Bismark was the first to declare 65 the official retirement age back in the late 1800s when he introduced the social security system to appeal to the working class. He knew the program wouldn’t cost much because back then, the average German worker didn’t survive long past the age of 60.
America followed suit in the 1930s, creating our own Social Security system and using the same magic age of 65 when the average life expectancy was just a little over 61 years. Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American can expect to live to the age of 78. Yet no one’s bothered to adjust the age of retirement.
For a small group of people, retirement is bliss. These people are usually heavily engaged in volunteer pursuits or pursing beloved hobbies that fill their days with activity and stimulation. For many people, however, retirement can bring on negative emotions like depression, apathy, and a general feeling of uselessness.
The Ugly Side of Retirement
Retirement may negatively affect a person’s health. According to one study, it leads to up to a 16 percent increase in mobility problems, near a 10 percent decline in mental health, and about a 6 percent increase in illness. “Retiring at a later age may lessen or postpone poor health outcomes for older adults,” wrote the authors.
A second study found that those who take on full or part-time jobs after retirement have better health. Another found that they live longer.
“Inactivity breeds lassitude, boredom, frustration, anxiety, and, in time, testiness and bad temper,” writes author Garson Kanin in It Takes a Long Time to Become Young. “A simpler solution is to refuse to accept retirement. If you cannot find employment, invent it.”
Other studies disagree, citing improved energy and mental outlook after retirement. Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, you can find studies to support your argument.
What it all comes down to is the individual, and listening to your own voice.
What Works Best for You?
Are you really ready to retire at age 65? Or would you feel more useful, energetic, and passionate about your life if you were involved in some sort of work?
“For many of us it is the first time in a long time we have had the resources and time freedom to do what we really want” writes author John P. Strelecky. “The challenge is…we often don’t really know what that is. We typically don’t know what we want, which is to keep working.”
As members of our current youth-obsessed culture, we hear many messages through the years about how age robs us of our looks, our figures, our energy and vitality, and our mental capacities, so much so that we’re encouraged to step down at the age of 65 and let the younger, more agile workers take over.
For some, stepping out of the workforce is just a simple life transition that leads to a more relaxing and fulfilling existence. For others, however, quitting a job they’re passionate about or just plain good at doesn’t make any sense.
“The strength of any country is based on its ability to marshal effectively its manpower and woman power,” writes Kanin. “To do this, it is imperative that use be made of all able-bodied citizens without regard to sex, or color—or age.”