Over 50 and still going strong
I have to be honest and tell you that I passed my half-century a few years ago. I’d like to think that I still have youthful good looks and could pass for a much younger man, but that got punctured the other day when a small boy passing by on a bicycle with his father said to the latter that he should ‘watch out for the old man’, and as I was the only one there, well, he meant me. And so I have to come to terms with the idea that I am now at an age past the point at which, some 35 years ago, I believed senility began. Maybe I should be looking closely at Saga holidays and organising Bridge evenings. Shoot me now!
But actually, as the demographic make-up of society changes continuously, there are serious things to consider here. Earlier this year in a post here I suggested that we might need to look again at compulsory retirement ages. And at the same time, I feel we need to look at the contribution universities make to the employment of slightly older people. Right now, as part of the public sector cost cutting exercise under way in Ireland, we are being prompted to encourage people close to retirement age to go early, thereby reducing the pay bill. Is this what we should be doing?
In the United States a survey was conducted recently to identify the best employers for employees over 50, and interestingly three of the top 10 were universities. Indeed, the top-rated employer was Cornell University. There should be a lesson in this for us. I believe that those who still feel fit and mentally agile and who have passed retirement age can still make valuable contributions to higher education, and indeed may be particularly conscientious teachers and researchers. So perhaps we should think again about whether we can or should apply a retirement and pensions policy that we really cannot afford, and which may deprive society – and in our case higher education – of some of its most valuable contributors.