People can and should go on working longer. Being underutilized for a couple of decades while their physical and mental abilities remain strong and their experience is valuable would be poisonously destructive. Is there any reason, beyond the fact that they are often cheaper, why firms should not hire older workers, who are likely to be reliable and experienced? That would dispose of several “problems” the aging population supposedly creates. Society’s wealth-generating section would not shrink and the welfare-claiming sections would not continue swelling, at least not because of old age. One suspects there would be fewer medical “problems” if people over 60 or 65 did not feel that they were good for nothing but the scrap heap.

P. D. James recently wrote a new novel at age 90. Despite a debilitating disease, Stephen Hawking is still intellectually active at 71. Many quite aged House of Lords members work harder and make better legislative contributions than the youngsters so beloved by our political leaders. They are not freaks of nature; they are normal examples of an aging population. 

Finding new work for the old would mean rethinking many assumptions—some decades old, some centuries. But given that people are living longer, fewer children are being born, and European social welfare is economically unsustainable, such a rethinking is long overdue. The one possible difficulty is that in the process, many people—hitherto well paid in bureaucracies, trade unions, and NGOs—might find themselves on that scrap heap. 

 



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