Retirement history II – put me out to pasture and plow me under (parenthetically speaking)

Good news! I was neither eaten nor chloroformed to live another day and tell about Part II of the:

The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P.

By MARY-LOU WEISMAN for the New York Times

PASTURE-IZING THE ELDERLY

“It was the world-renowned physician William Osler who laid the scientific foundations that, when combined with a compelling economic rationale, would eventually make retirement acceptable. In his 1905 valedictory address at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he had been physician-in-chief, Osler said it was a matter of fact that the years between 25 and 40 in a worker’s career are the ”15 golden years of plenty.” He called that span ”the anabolic or constructive period.” Workers between ages 40 and 60 were merely uncreative and therefore tolerable. He hated to say it, because he was getting on, but after age 60 the average worker was ”useless” and should be put out to pasture.” (I’m 70, that means put out to pasture . . .  and . . .  plowed under . . .  for the next crop)

THE BIG PAYOFF

By 1935, it became evident that the only way to get old people to stop working for pay was to pay them enough to stop working.  A Californian, (Of course California . . . where else . . . ) Francis Townsend, initiated a popular movement by proposing mandatory retirement at age 60. In exchange, the Government would pay pensions of up to $200 a month, an amount equivalent at the time to a full salary for a middle-income worker. Horrified at the prospect of Townsend’s radical generosity, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the Social Security Act of 1935, which made workers pay (and pay and pay and pay) for their own old-age insurance.

LEISURE WEARING

“What used to mean going to bed suddenly meant banishment to an empty stage of life called ”retirement.” If people were not going to work, what were they going to do? Sit in a rocking chair? Eleanor Roosevelt thought so. ”Old people love their own things even more than young people do. It means so much to sit in the same chair you sat in for a great many years,”  she said in 1934. But she was wrong. (Yes, she was wrong. I sit because it’s too hard to get up) Most retired people wished they could work. (That’s because we are scared of being eaten or plowed under) The problem was still acute in 1951, when the Corning company convened a round table to figure out how to make retirement more popular. At that conference, Santha Rama Rau, an author and student of Eastern and Western cultures, complained that Americans did not have the capacity to enjoy doing nothing.” (the verdict is still out, I’ll let you know)

SENIORS ARE BORN

“The publication in 1955 of Senior Citizen magazine was the first widespread use of the euphemism (If Senior Citizen is an euphemism – “OLD-WOMAN” is a swear word) that, while intending to reconfer respect, instead made a senior citizen sound like an over-decorated captain in ”The Pirates of Penzance.” Its merely partial success may also be linked to the fact that there is something inherently suspicious about an age group that has to offer its potential members discounts to induce them to join.”

THE R WORD

In 1999, The American Association of Retired Persons, once the Welcome Wagon of retirement, dropped the word ”retired” from its name and became The American Association of R****** Persons. This change was effected in recognition of a basic reality — many of its members are not retired — and in anticipation of the baby boomers’ threat never to stop wearing Lycra, turn gray, stop carrying around bottled water or retire. (I have the Lycra, grey hair and bottled water  . . .  now to find me a job)

Part I of Retirement History

"I can't believe what she's saying"

“LYCRA!  I do not want to look”