How We Got Here: A Brief History of Retirement
Prior to the Industrial Age, there was more “job satisfaction.” Author Robert Atchley in The Sociology of Retirement points out that a craftsman controls both process and product. That makes work a satisfying and integral part of his life.
On the other hand, an industrial worker is responsible for only a part of the process. Clearly, that is less rewarding. A craftsman had a craft and a vocation. With industrialization, those words were replaced by “job” and “occupation.”
Older people were valued and relied on for their insight, their deep knowledge hard won over a lifetime, their moral lessons and yes, their wisdom. Contrast that with the ageism that exists today with older people viewed as infirm, useless and/or “over the hill.” This did not happen by accident. There was a deliberate, conscious, sophisticated propaganda campaign to get you to take on these beliefs.
The year is 1905. Dr. William Osler, a highly respected doctor delivers his valedictory speech on leaving his post at Johns Hopkins University. Osler says: “Take the sum of human achievement in action, in science, in art, in literature. Subtract the work of men above 40, and while we would miss great treasures, even priceless treasures, we would practically be where we are today.”
He goes on to add that men older than 60 are entirely useless and a drain on society because of their inelastic minds. As you now know, that is absolute and utter bilge and balderdash as evidenced by the study of neuroplasticity you learned about in tip # 15.
Nevertheless, Osler floated the idea of what to do with all these “useless” 60 year olds. Send them to a “college” at age 60 for a year of contemplation…and then, we chloroform them! Kill ‘em off at age 61. Cute. He may have said it facetiously, but there is no evidence that he was booed off stage.
Fast forward to 1933, the absolute bottom of the Great Depression. One quarter of the labor force, thirteen million Americans, are out of work. Angry young men, fueled with testosterone, are on the streets. Communist and Fascist ideas are held up as solutions. This is a volatile mix. President Franklin D. Roosevelt decides to act.
He sets up public pensions to entice older men to retire so younger men could take their place, getting them off the streets where they might foment revolution.
And where did the “retirement age” of 65 come from? Quite possibly from German Chancellor Count Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck plucked “three score and ten years” from the Bible and used it as the threshold for pension benefits. A few years later, he lowered it to 65 because so few were collecting. German life expectancy at the time was 46!
And American life expectancy? 63. With so few living to 65, Roosevelt was not in danger of giving away the store. The Social Security Act taxed workers who far outnumbered the newly formed group to be called “retirees.” In fact, at the time there were 40 workers supporting each retiree.
As noted in the last tip, Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1960, far outnumber the generation following. AND they are living far longer. Many Boomers are keenly interested in their health, watching their diet, exercise and lifestyle and may even extend life expectancy.
The Myth of Retirement Part Four
The Most Successful Marketing Campaign in History is Built on Four Lies
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