I made it!! I’ll soon be raising a bowl of high-fibre granola with antioxidant-rich blueberries in a Happy Birthday toast. I turn 65 years young tomorrow. This is supposed to be a major milestone in one’s life but what does that actually mean?
In researching this topic, as is my usual pattern, I entered a few Google enquiries to gather information and ideas. I submitted multiple variations of life’s milestones and soon learned that all of the commonly reported milestones are before age 65. Most sites depict retirement as the last milestone and life is apparently over after that. There are numerous milestones in our lives before 65 that are commonly reported such as: that first kiss, a real job, marriage, etc. but they all stop at retirement. That’s not good!! I’m not ready yet! The graphic below is a typical description of life’s major milestones.
This may not be the end for us, however. On New Year’s Day 2011 the oldest members of the Baby Boomer Generation turned 65. This age was once linked to retirement, gray Velcro shoes, Tim Horton’s discounts, and riding off into the sunset. This does not seem to be the case. We are too big to be overlooked or discounted. From New Year’s Day in 2011 foreword, and for the 19 years to follow, about 10,000 people have, and will, cross this threshold every day. In reality many Boomers, whether through exercise, that new miracle diet, various enhancements, or medical improvements, have no intention of discarding their youth or looking at the tulips from the bottom up. Not everyone arrives in good health but in sheer numbers we are too numerous to ignore. Therefore, about 25% of the American population (Canada too) are redefining what it means to be old. We are placing greater demands on the social welfare net as we live longer, work longer and change what reaching this milestone looks like. We are setting new milestones.
Ever wonder why 65 was considered the retirement date or the last item on a milestone list?
Sixty-five is a milestone age – the traditional “retirement age” – because it has for a very long time been the age at which so many people became eligible for a government subsidy. In Canada it’s the Old Age Pension. Therefore, sixty-five is a milestone birthday because of government.
Historically 65 was identified first as the retirement age by the German government. At the end of the 19th century Otto von Bismarck, introduced the world’s first government-provided old-age pension system around 1890 for – prepare to be shocked – political reasons. The right-wing Bismarck wanted to blunt the influence of the socialist opposition party in Germany.
Myth has it that Bismarck chose 65 as the age at which the pension would kick in because that’s how old he was. In fact, the U.S. Social Security Administration informs us that the age was initially chosen as 70, then reduced to 65 a few years later, after Bismarck died. The salient fact here is that the great majority of German workers in 1890, didn’t live to 50, much less 65 or 70. Bismarck knew the program would cost very little. Reducing it 5 years wasn’t much of a risk.
Some 55 years later, in 1935, the American Social Security was modelled after the German version, including the retirement age. Canada passed the Old Age Pension Act a little earlier, in 1927, but the conservative Canadian government set the retirement age at 70 years. This wasn’t changed until 1951 when it was reduced to 65. Either age was of little consequence and appealed to most politicians because the average life expectancy of Americans in 1935 was about 60 years. They thought we would all be face down in the tulips by 65 and would be collecting very little of any benefit. We fooled them, however. Today’s life expectancy in Canada has gone up to 80 years for men and 84 for women and the “old-age” subsidy still kicks in at or around 65 even after Steven’s efforts to extend this a couple years.
I find this a little disheartening as I have been anticipating turning 65 and expected something amazing to happen. I thought I had reached the golden years with time to assess where I’ve been and where I’m going but it seems the only reason 65 is a milestone birthday is because historically it represents becoming eligible for a government subsidy….and the politicians thought we would all die before they had to pay it. That is a sad commentary. Perhaps those milestone bloggers aren’t so wrong.
So it seems nothing will change much in my retirement years. I see a few of my friends suffering from health problems but mostly people are planning trips, living the lives they choose, and enjoying their government subsidy years. There is no pot of gold, but with good health and a little planning we should be able to enjoy this time far better than many of the previous generations. I guess I am here for a while yet and, maybe I should toast Justin with a nice hardy merlot instead of that bowl of high fibre granola while setting a couple of milestones of my own.