Bill Piket just thinking

JUST THINKING: It’s time to retire current thinking on traditional retirement age

For some 65 is late, while others are happy to continue working as long as they’re able

Retire at age 65? Heck, when I retired from my teaching job in 2003, I was a mere 63 years young.

That was back in 2003.

So why did I decide, nearly two decades ago, to retire two years before my 65th birthday? I remember it clearly.

It was August, 2002 and I suddenly realized I was not looking forward to September’s arrival. Every August, for more than 30 years, I had been eager to return to the classroom and meet the new students I would be teaching that year.

But not that August.

As I had been teaching for 38 years by then, I was entitled to a full pension with no penalties for not waiting until I was 65. I went to see my principal and told him of my plans to retire after one more semester.

Did I enjoy that final semester? Mostly I enjoyed looking forward to retiring early with a full pension.

In February, as the new semester started – the first without me in 38 years – I immediately started thinking about stories friends had told me about making a little extra money by teaching part-time at night school. Teaching English 12 to more mature adult students at Queen Elizabeth High School? Piece of cake!

I made enquiries, did the paper work, made the phone calls and sure enough, my teaching licence was renewed and I got the job, no problem.

But there was a problem: I didn’t enjoy it.

After that first semester, I retired again. This time at age 64.

It was not long after this, though, that I got recruited to substitute for a friend who taught adults at Surrey’s Invergarry Adult Education Centre. And, surprise, this time I enjoyed the job.

The next thing I knew, other teachers at Invergarry were asking me to substitute teach their classes. At first for a few days at a time and then for longer spells.

Now, almost 20 years later, I’m still teaching part time at Invergarry and enjoying it immensely.

At 82 years old, I’m an example of someone who has remained employed well past the traditional retirement age of 65.

So where did that “retire at 65” rule come from? Some suggest it was conceived by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. As the man who united Germany and invented pensions, he knew that most Germans would not live to be 65.

All I know is that the figure seems arbitrary. Lots of folks continue to work at 65 and beyond, if at a reduced pace. Some do it because they need the money, but many who are comfortably taken care of make the choice to continue working.

Some years ago there was a lot of talk about retiring at 55. Not much talk of that any more.

As we age, we may find our job too demanding, either physically or mentally.

On the other hand, as we grow older, we may also grow in understanding and in our appreciation of all the varied members of the human family we encounter during our working lives.

We’re all unique. To designate age 65 as the benchmark for every one of us to retire is simply absurd.

Bill Piket is a White Rock senior who writes occasionally for the Peace Arch News – whenever there’s something on his mind.