Editor’s blog: Grey hairs on the march

The grey hairs are on the march – today there is more pressure for the UK retirement age to be scrapped. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has vowed to make getting rid of the compulsory 65 retirement age a centre-piece of its election campaigning. This is likely to force the hand of the three main political parities to make pledges about what they may or may not do in this area. As things stand the retirement age is fixed at 65 although employees can request an employer to allow them to continue beyond this age. This will rise to 66 for men and women but not until 2024. (The French , by the way, clock out for the last time at 60 but in the USA 20% of the workforce continues until the ripe old age of 69.)

Of course, fairness as little to do with the political attraction of getting rid of the 65 cut off point. It won’t have escaped your notice that we’re currently skint as a nation and a few more individuals who continue to work beyond 65 – thus not drawing a costly pension and continuing to pay their tax and National Insurance are all good news for our hard pressed Treasury coffers. But it seems to me that an increased degree of flexibility makes a lot of sense. However there are plenty of individuals who once they’ve reached 65 with 45 plus years of hard labour under their belt have had enough and wish to put their feet up. There’s nothing to be ashamed about in this. There’s also an argument that with growing numbers of youth unemployed it makes sense for the oldsters to make way for kids after a job. One things for sure – the last thing business needs is hundreds more disastrous industrial tribunals caused by disagreement about showing the elderly the exit, clasping the gold watch.

Age seems to be on the mind of many at the moment. Even Martin Amis has joined in. Amis, who is seeking some publicity to crank up sales of his latest novel, has now reached the age of 60. He’s chosen to pick a fight with the grey hairs by declaring that he believes the UK is facing a “civil war” between the youth and the elderly as a “silver tsunami” of the old and knackered put pressure on all our services.

IN a satirical attack in the line of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” Amis states that “they’ll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops.” He goes on to advocate that there should be euthanasia booths on every corner where the infirm who have had enough could “get a martini and a medal.” Funny that few artists retire. And it’s not because they’re self-employed and they mistakenly put what pension contribs they had into the useless Equitable Life. The fact that they keep on keeping on doesn’t mean they’re turning out quality material, though. How many great works of art have been produced by the post-65s, I wonder? Beethoven may have been deaf and on his last legs when he produced his late String Quartets but he was only in his 50s. Picasso spent his later years just taking the piss. And Amis – well, Money, his finest novel, was published in 1984 when he was 34. Perhaps Little Mart should get himself a job in B&Q – then he might not feel quite so miserable.