Monday, June 25, 2007

Retiring At 85

It is by now common knowledge that Social Security is a god-awful mess and will be bankrupt in a matter of years, how soon exactly no one seems to be quite certain or able to predict. One of the ways the government can fix the present mess is to stop paying benefits, and one way to do that is to keep on raising the full retirement age, which used to be 65 but is now 67.

In what may be some kind of neo-con trial balloon, a US biologist has said that the age of retirement should be raised to 85 by 2050 because of trends in life expectancy. Shripad Tuljapurkar (this is a "US biologist?") of Stanford University says anti-ageing advances could raise life expectancy by a year each year over the next two decades.

This, of course, presumes that ordinary working people will be able to afford to gain the benefit of all the advances in modern medical research, which is about as likely as a snowstorm in hell. Tuljapurkar told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in St. Louis that continuing to allow people to retire in their 60s "will put a strain on economies around the world."

The Stanford researcher has been looking at relationships between historical trends in ageing, population growth and economic activity. Based on this, he came up with a scenario in which anti-ageing technologies will increase the most common age of death by one year per year between 2010 and 2030.

This is optimistic at best, in my view, and apparently takes no account of the fact that America's health services are being strained to the breaking point by millions of non-paying illegal aliens, and collapsing into squalor and incompetence through the employment of massive numbers of Third Worlders, many of them also illegal. True, the very wealthy who can afford to get top-notch health care will live longer, but average people's life spans may well decrease as they have in places like Haiti and Zimbabwe.

"People are going to do things they didn't get round to in their working lives. Current institutions are really not equipped at the moment to deal with such long lives," Dr Tuljapurkar said, apparently aghast at the prospect of millions of septuagenarian Baby Boomers rolling around the continent in RVs and spending their childrens' inheritance. I don't imagine the children are too happy with it, either.

But is the solution really to make the poor old folks keep on working until they're 85? What kind of quality work, really, can someone in their 80s do? Okay, depending on the job and the individual, yes, there would be some competent octogenarians. But given their health problems (and we still don't have a single-payer health system in this country, the only nation in the world with any pretense to civilization that does not) and all of the other difficulties associated with human beings getting that old, do we really want an 80 year-old bus driver taking us to work in the morning, working on the jet airliner engine of the plane we'll be flying in, or processing seriously necessary paperwork?

Frankly, this sounds like someone up top is contemplating solving the impending Social Security crisis through simply eliminating the whole concept of retirement, keeping on taking the money, and waiting for the last of the old Caucasian population to die in harness.


Blogger Restless Retiree said...

You make some entertaining points regarding keeping the senile in the work-force. Being an aircraft mechanic might be a little to taxing for the average 80 year old. I think a more sedentary position like an aircraft controller would be more appropriate. Remember there are a lot of ninety year olds still driving cars. Sure, there is the occasional overblown media report about some horrific accident caused by some enfeebled driver but they are rare. I'm sure you wouldn't want to paint the whole group with one brush just because of the failings of a few.

5:05 PM  

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