Out to Pasture

       By: Nancy Ayash
Posted: 2006-12-23 05:18:34
To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am. -Bernard M. BaruchIs retirement right for you?Bob Barker, the host of The Price is Right, will "retire" this year. He is 83 years old. If he had stopped working at 65, there's a good possibility Mr. Barker might not have passed this octogenarian milestone. Why? Maybe retirement can be detrimental to your health. It brings with it melancholy and boredom -- a life of dissatisfaction. Research in gerontology reveals that depression is the most prevalent mental illness among retirees, and we must admit, even the word sounds drab and uninteresting. Perhaps the concept of living a life of "leisure and relaxation" is not conducive to good health. Maybe, just maybe, our well-being is closely tied to our innate desire to be productive. Work is natural. Retirement is abnormal.Wait a minute. Aren't we supposed to look forward to our golden years; aren't we supposed to yearn for that day when we stop clocking in, when we can relax and enjoy all the fruits of our labor? Isn't that the reason we must make preparations---keep a close watch on home equity, pensions, 401ks, and our Social Security? The number 65 hovers over us as a reminder that retirement is near. Finally, we can leave the world of work behind and have some fun! Perhaps, but be careful what you wish for.In the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, the fictional character, Frank Barone, is a retiree in his mid 60s--a man disengaged from work and life. No matter how the writers try to put a comic spin to Mr. Barone's character, they can't pull it off. Frank is marginalized. We glimpse a man that spends his days in perpetual monotony. He eats sandwiches and cracks jokes. His only joy is berating his wife and complaining. This is real. Mr. Barone represents a large majority of retirees in this country. Why is this man cut off from the larger world of social interaction and daily challenges? He drifts ghostlike, in a no-man's land of domestic quarreling and superficial friendships at the "lodge." The comedy writers gloss over his life. After all, there is nothing funny about a man who is disheartened and miserable. Perhaps the audience should ask the larger question? Why is Frank Barone, the accountant, retired? Better yet, how did our lives become so tied to this system of retirement?This is a fairly new concept in American society. The notion of withdrawing from the workforce with State funded benefits didn't take hold until 1935. Touted by President Roosevelt as the means to protect the elderly, Social Security is actually a government structure that bleeds the private sector dry---taxation without representation-and it's been in full swing for over 60 years. But the most damaging fact about this State program has more to do with the psychological and social conditioning upon the general public. The system conditions the citizenry towards non-productivity and away from self-sufficiency. And that, my friends, is called retirement. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for a program that provides for the needs of people that are facing poor health and financial hardship. But that's about it. The rest of us are in pretty good health, and we're tough -- many have experienced downsizing, mergers, corporate instability, successive job changes and insecurity. These events have made the new retiree a risk-taker and quick thinker.
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