Sunday, October 12, 2014

Baby boomers hang in

The article in the NZ Listener (October 18) tell me that baby boomers don't want to retire. They want to work till they drop dead. And it gives numerous examples of people who are still busy working after their retirement age. Some work because they can't imagine what they would do with their time if they didn't work. Of course, we all want to work and be useful as long as we live. Pottering in the garden, playing golf or bridge as an occupation to fill in time, cultivating a hobby just for the sake of having something to do is too boring. But the downside of being active in old age is that you might find yourself irrelevant, that your frames of reference are no longer meaningful to a generation for whom these are ancient history. I was talking to a friend who celebrated his three-quarters of a century birthday. We first met over fifty years ago, and we both remembered our first conversation. It was about the imminent destruction of the world, the threat posed by the nuclear stand-off  at the time of the Cuban crisis. Whoever remembers now the Cuban crisis? Now people worry about ecological disasters, climate change, pollution, perhaps Islamic fundamentalism, but the threat of a nuclear war has faded. John Kennedy is remembered, if he is remembered at all,as a lover of Marilyn Monroe and numerous other women, but few remember that he faced down Khrushchev, and more important, his own military chiefs, who wanted him to rush into war. There may be merit in drawing on the memories of old people as guides for decision making, but it is important to bear in mind that much of this store of memories, terms of reference that were valid a generation ago, are now past their use by date. Perhaps one of the problems with New Zealand economy and productivity is that the decision makers, the directors of companies are these very same baby boomers who won't let go, won't retire, and run their business as they used to in their time.