In this youth-worshipping society, you might be surprised that old people are occupying powerful positions into their 80s and 90s.
We’ve had two recent examples, Joe Paterno and Andy Rooney.
Andy Rooney, who died in November last year was 92. He too had been a legend in broadcasting for decades. Rooney did retire, but just weeks before he died. In the 60 Minutes piece honoring his retirement, his grave illness was never mentioned.
Because many are delaying retirement, the people in power are getting older.
At an average age of 58.2, we have the oldest Congress in history. Three U.S. Senators are 87 (Akaka-HI, Inoye-HI and Lautenberg-NJ).
Vice-president Joe Biden turns 70 this year. Four of our nine Supreme Court justices are in their seventies.
In show business, advanced years are no barrier to working. Betty White is 90 and Clint Eastwood is 80. Regis Philbin retired not long ago at age 80.
Evangelist Billy Graham is 93. Other aging religious leaders include Pope Benedict XVI, 84,, the Dalai Lama , 76 and Joseph S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 82.
According to a CNN survey, one fourth of all members of the middle class plan to delay retirement until they are 80 because they are not financially prepared to retire comfortably. Only 20 percent of the workers surveyed thought you should retire at a set age regardless.
In the past, many people were forced into retirement by a mandatory retirement age, often at 65 or 70. But in 1986, the mandatory retirement age was abolished by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. A study at Columbia University found that the number of workers age 65 or over in the workplace has since risen by 10 to 20 percent.
In American society, older people are a fairly new group. In 1850, the life expectancy was 38. There weren’t very many old people. But with better health care, people began to live longer. It was during the Industrial Revolution that old age became an issue.
There was no such thing as retirement for the masses before Social Security was enacted in 1935. One of the reasons Social Security was passed was to get older men out of the workplace. Older workers made mistakes, missed too many days, and could be replaced with younger, stronger workers. Social Security got them out of factories at age 65.
Between 1950 and 1999, the average retirement age for men dropped five years, from 68.7 to 63.7 years, and the retirement age for women dropped 4.4 years, from 68 to 63.6 years, according to Social Security stats.
But with more and more older Americans choosing not to retire, it seems we have now come full circle, and that many people prefer to continue to work. The truth is, Americans now have the freedom to retire or continue working, and that’s the way it should be.
This is a trend that is here to stay. The fastest growing age group in the U.S. is those 80 and older.
Jerry Garcia summed it up in his own musical way: “Oh well, a touch of grey, it kinda suits you anyway.”