Sharleen Baird: Comfy retirement receding fast

By Sharleen Baird

7 comments
Sharleen Baird.
Sharleen Baird.

Ageing? Yes I am.

Is anyone else feeling "put upon" by all the scaremongering and "helpful" ageing advice bombarding us these days?

Apparently those of us over 55-60 are increasingly worried by news we need to save up to a million for our retirement if we want a reasonable standard of living. Some people haven't got much time, then.

There's constant speculation that the pension may a) decrease b) be available to the few who live to a flexible upper age of eligibility or c) be means-tested.

The good news is, we are allowed to work till we die if we can hold on to our jobs. This will increase our chances of being able to afford food, electricity and rent or a mortgage if we haven't managed to buy a home.

Perhaps we may even afford private healthcare as the public system allocates less money to our increasing health needs.

There are also suggestions we need to don lycra, think positively and eat better foods or it will be our own fault if we have health problems and 60 isn't the new 40. Women will feel better with Botox and dieting - glutenfree-paleo-fodmap-no carbs or sugar regimes are our new research topics. I suspect self-absorption and alienation from common sense is a real risk here.

Using historical statistics and an assumption present conditions will continue, its stated repeatedly we're going to live longer despite increasing world instability, economic recessions due to global corporate greed and climate change. These are threats that don't seem to have been factored into the longevity predictions and may put a dent in them.

My belief is that we will actually face increased poverty and pollution, risks of spreading epidemic diseases, lowered healthy food availability and war. Not to mention increased death and injury from more frequent weather "events".

I've read that this longer working life will help us stay mentally agile and connected with society. If we leave paid employment, our brains will turn to mush and we won't know what to do with our time.

Increased workplace stress and speed of changes, both organisational and technological, should be a doddle to us older people - but if we have any increased workplace-induced alopecia, insomnia, tiredness, headaches and digestive disorders, it can be blamed on our age.

It's our problem rather than unrealistic demands and just plain burnout and boredom after a lifetime of reorganising, multi-tasking, retraining, personal development , staff shortages, re-inventing of the wheel, etc.

Rebel, I say. Leave your jobs if you can get by. We've earned the right to retire. We need to see it as a glorious and unselfish act.

By staying on, you're blocking the younger generation or someone made redundant who really needs the money from being productive members of the community. . You'll perhaps create a vacancy for a younger person to put their first foot on the employment ladder - heartwarming indeed!

It IS scary. When people ask what you do after many years of work, it's tempting to say "nothing" or define yourself as an ex-something or other. If we let it, redundancy or retiring can feel like a loss of status if we took pride in our paid work role and the skills learned.

When really what we do is whatever we're doing. Today, I'm writing an opinion piece for the media - tomorrow what I'm doing is weeding the garden.

Many of us will get by on less. After all, armchair travel is easier on the planet and there are no mosquitoes, and we could find ways to enjoy that challenge and make some of our small dreams come true. Op shops, ukulele lessons and book reading (or writing) here we come.

Aotearoa needs us to drive the Red Cross van and form groups so people feel included in the community and less lonely. Now more than ever, we're needed to be there for grandchildren if we're lucky enough to have any. We can share skills, knowledge and have time to contribute to those small projects most of us haven't had time for. Vege gardens and input into community and political organisations, for example.

Or just sit on the verandah and do nothing. My first choice.

- Sharleen Baird lives in Waipukurau and has had previous experience and employment in Maori, Mental Health and Public Health arenas.

- Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz

- Hawkes Bay Today

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