The Western Socialist
Vol. 28 - No. 219
No. 1, 1961
pages 5-6


A view prevails that it is proper for workers who reach the age of 65 or 70 to retire from employment and spend the rest of their day in comfort and security puttering among their chrysanthemums and cabbages.

The view is bolstered by the existence of a government old age pension plan and by pension plans in private concerns — although it must be noted that the "comfort and security" feature is a goal yet to be attained.

But there are at times suggestions that "idleness" (meaning not being employed for wages) is not good for workers, even old workers. Far better is it for them to continue in the service of an employer. And sometimes these suggestions are developed and embellished with facts and figures and cloaked with the dignity of learned and official approval to the point where they must be considered.

A case in point is an article, "Helping the Older Worker Find Suitable Employment," prepared by the Committee on Gerontology of the Health League of Canada, published in the "Occupational Health Bulletin" (Vol. 15, No. 11, 1960), by the Information Service Division of the Department of National Health and Welfare, Ottawa. That kind of backing should flatten the opposition.

It seems that there are 1¼ million people over the age of 65 in Canada. "What a boost to the economy would come from the employment of even ten per cent" of this number, says the Committee on Gerontology, etc. It is mentioned that "only 5% of people over 65 are able to live on their income in retirement, 25% continue in employment beyond this age, leaving 70% who require assistance." Attention is also drawn to the fact that in a check made of a certain group of older workers it was found that their wages ranged from $35.00 to $70.00 weekly and averaged $42.51 weekly, a figure that equals about two thirds of the average for workers generally.

It must not be thought that the deliberations of the C. on G. were influenced strongly by the needs of the national economy (meaning the owning class), or the fact that 70% of the oldsters "require assistance" (cost money), or the more agreeable circumstance (to employers) of small wages. These, no doubt, are items of interest. But the chief concern of the Committee, beyond question, is the mental and physical well-being of the older workers, a concern expressed as follows:

And now, what of the individual? How does the average man of "60 plus" react to a situation which, in all too many cases, condemns him to 10, 15 or 20 years of idleness, with little or nothing of real interest awaiting him tomorrow, nor in all the endless tomorrows to follow! Is it surprising that he becomes frustrated, depressed and often mentally and physically ill? In order to be retained, mental and physical abilities must be constantly used.

This, as noted, is what the Committee most wanted to say, and they said it very capably, recording also the fact that workers have been known to work up to the age of 83 and that one oldster of 80 "still rides his bicycle on city streets and is still a valued choralist in a church choir." It would be inspiring to learn that his employer also rides a bike and sings in church. This, alas, is not stated.

The worker, then, should work. It is good for him. He should work until he dies. And, most important, he should work for an employer. What, one might ask, could be more stimulating mentally and physically than turning nuts on bolts, or shovelling gravel, or removing heel marks from the top of the boss's desk? How can the care of chrysanthemums and cabbages compare with nocturnal and refreshing wanderings about a warehouse protecting it from intruders? What can contribute more to zest and longevity than standing in a colorful uniform at the entrance to a hotel, opening and closing the door? The older workers must pay heed to this important message from the C. on G. (etc., etc.)

Up then from your rocking chairs, you doddering old codgers! Back to the ranks of the exploited! Learn again to live!

J. M.