Back in the mists of time; let’s call it the late 1990s, I was seconded from my career as a librarian and parachuted in to the dizzying heights of senior management. One of my first tasks was to take over the management side of negotiations with the trade unions over the annual pay settlement. Another was to drive forward discussions with the Scottish Office (later Scottish Government) on a restructuring of our administration. A third was to implement a policy of ‘age 60 retirement’. This was to bring our quango into line with policy of the Scottish Office at that time. All of these things took effort and commitment, but I succeeded. Indeed I went a further two steps up the greasy pole of preferment (and then one step back, but that’s another story) before the arrow of time birled round to my own 60th birthday in 2002.
Since then, the Scottish Goverment, and indeed the UK one, has gone into reverse over retirement age policy, and there have been noises in Westminster this week suggesting that even the ‘default retirement age’ of 65 will be revisited next year. So, coming up as I do upon a birthday next week, what do I think about it?
Well, I moved pretty smoothly from one career into another in 2002. Being a freelance writer, tutor and publisher suits me, plus I’ve done an awful lot of voluntary work as well. I work very hard at the things I do, but I like being able to choose when and how I do them. I would never want to go back to an 8:30 to 5 job again, but I’m glad that people of my age and beyond will hopefully have the opportunity to do so if they want to. Retirement should be a time to do something different, or to carry on doing the same thing, whichever you prefer. I started work at 18, and my degrees were earned part-time, while I was working full-time, so retirement, for me, came after 42 years of working.
I don’t think my capacity for work diminished much between 60 and 65, but I’ve definitely noticed some slowdown since then. And there’s an attitude thing as well. I’m less patient with those who persistently re-invent the wheel. I have little or no inclination to learn new tricks, like web design software. Upskilling sounds tiresome, and of dubious long-term benefit.
The writing’s changing too, and I’m glad of that. I’d be very bored with myself if I didn’t find new inspirations, and different ways of expressing myself. And I’ve got the time to do it.