Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Two Olds

Retirement  - no such thing!
I well remember when my father retired.  He chose not to take up a government offer to come chief judge in a New Zealand Pacific protectorate, in preference to his first love, fishing off the rocks on the Coromandel peninsula.

Not that I was surprised at this as he had by then had enough of party political interference in the appointment of the judiciary.  He had also served his country in Word War II which included several years in a German POW camp; he was captured on Crete as many New Zealanders were.

The thing about Dad was he never publicly expressed any negative views about such matters, such was his legal training.  When the time came that he could retire he "packed up his tent" and went fishing.

So today as I reach the official NZ retirement age and become eligible to reclaim back a small portion of the large amount of tax I have paid the country over forty years, I am reminded of the day my father chose relaxation over re-employment.

In my own case and to paraphrase a Chinese expression it is a case of 'the two olds'.

I turned sixty as a Permanent Resident (PR) in Singapore thereby qualifying for a plastic card that identified me as a 'senior citizen', travel and other concessions.  While this was much appreciated, I felt a bit of a fraud as I was in lucrative full time employment with no intention of retiring from my senior appointment with the British Council.  Singapore has subsequently raised its retirement age since my departure.

Now some five years on and back in New Zealand I still don't really believe that the day has come when I have qualified once again for this status in society.  Yet another piece of plastic arrived though the post entitling me to an even broader range of tempting discounts; not that discount facials and new tyres hold much appeal.  But as my Mother used to say, it is the thought that counts.

The other thing about 'retirement' at an arbitrary age is that it seldom if ever happens.  Where a few generations ago you were given a gold watch for long service and gently ushered out the back door, most of us now spend at least some time on pursuits that are tied into our former full time employment.

I am just as active now in the digital, online world as I ever have been which keeps the creative juices flowing.  The beauty is I no longer have to sit through the tedium of irrelevant staff meetings nor in my car braving the rush hour.

The brave,digital world that allowed me in my working life to communicate with clients, colleagues and friends around the globe, does so still.  So when I think about it, nothing much has changed except that I occasionally miss the face to face socialising that took place in the many staff rooms I frequented.

And I do miss Singapore; the arrival back home at Changi airport, the tropical thunderstorms and verdant foliage, the colourful creepy crawlies and the warmth of its people.  I am blessed that many of them in the 'Little Red Dot' and people I knew and worked with in NZ, remain friends still.

There was an article in the local press yesterday quoting a specialist who has said "Life expectancy in New Zealand is higher than ever, but early retirement is killing people".  The gist being that keeping the mind active keep you living longer.  They could well be right.  The thought of sinking into a lethargic torpor holds no appeal whatsoever!

I can't think of one person I know who has retired to the couch.  All of us are actively engaged in work and/or society. Which just goes to prove that we 'Baby Boomer's', despite the dire predictions of our parent's generation, aren't any lazier than those that went before us.

To paraphrase a certain BBC fox puppet "Boom, Boom" and long may life remain so.
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