Compulsory retirement age serves a purpose
Sir, – Alice Leahy (June 12th) states that “in some cases the rush to get rid of people with experience is breath-taking”.
I respectfully take the opposite view. I am worried about the momentum developing in society to abandon the concept of compulsory retirement from the public service at 65 years of age. I believe that compulsory retirement evolved for rational reasons, and if it is determined to be ageist at 65 years, then it must be considered equally ageist at any other age. This raises the rather scary prospect of having 80-year-old hospital doctors and nurses, High Court judges in their nineties, or school bus drivers approaching their century. It seems inevitable that productivity would fall, sick leave would increase and the quality of the service would suffer. How many patients would be adversely affected by a hospital consultant if he was finally diagnosed with age-related dementia at 95 years of age? And would it be considered ageist to performance-monitor him more closely than a 40-year-old consultant? The monitoring of elderly employees, their regular health checks, and the litigation involved in ridding the service of underperforming staff would become an expensive industry in itself.
Furthermore, I am convinced that the push for an extension to the retirement age, or an abandonment of any compulsory retirement altogether, is not emanating from 30-year-olds or 80-year-olds. It comes largely from people in their late fifties or early sixties whose compulsory retirement is imminent, and who are not ready for the blow to their income, status or ego that retirement will bring. These people fail to see that they have had their opportunity to contribute to the public service and that it is now someone else’s turn to do so. The number of jobs is finite, demand for employment in the public service is high, and if we want to stop emigration and give young people a chance, then the older people must retire. All of this is in accordance with the natural circle of life.
Employees’ genuine fears of retirement should be addressed by more intense retirement planning and preparation courses to prepare them mentally for their new role in society.
In addition, a new national agency should be created to interact with every retiree, encouraging and coordinating meaningful activities such as mentoring of younger people, work on advisory committees, hospital voluntary work, tourism guides and an endless array of other voluntary community work, especially community work for the elderly themselves. – Yours, etc,