It is being reliably forecast that the working population in the future will have to remain in employment for longer – goodbye to the expectation of retiring in your sixties and spending your leisure years on pensioners’ cruises. Many, if not most, people will have to continue working until they’re 72, because of the way demographics are shaping up (more older people, smaller families, fewer babies).
As if to endorse this trend, the Church of England was this week expected to rule that clergy are to be permitted to be active in ministry over the age of 70 and beyond.
We know this is already happening in all the Christian churches – priests and pastors are on average older than they used to be. The martyred French priest Fr Jacques Hamel was 86 when he was murdered while saying Mass, and it wasn’t unusual that a priest so advanced in years was still carrying out his daily pastoral duties.
Fr Hamel’s killing was a great tragedy, yet on the overall question of staying in harness past the threescore years and ten, I would suggest that there are many advantages. And I say that as a working person who has now passed that Rubicon herself.
It seems to me to be a benefit to go on contributing to a calling even in old age, both for the oldie in question and perhaps – ones hopes – also for society at large. By 70, you have gathered a fair amount of experience, and that should give weight – and measure – to your judgment. Courts of law in most societies tend to choose older individuals to become judges because of this store of experience, and the mellower attitudes brought to judgment.
The passions should have died down by the eighth decade, and that includes destructive anger and aggressive competitiveness (even though certain 70-year-olds, not a million miles from the White House, still seem to be capable of alarming volatility).
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