Saturday, November 10, 2012


A little over a year ago, in anticipation of the major lifestyle change of retirement, I posted on my blog a piece titled, “Pre-retirement musings.” 

Here’s an excerpt:

When I’m retired no one is going to ask my opinion. And if I offer one, unsolicited, I’ll either be patronized or ignored. I mean, once you retire, you’re no longer “in the game.” Who cares what the retired guy thinks? He’s no longer got a vested interest.

I understood that point from observation over the years.  When someone retired from my place of employment, typically he (or she) would call or email periodically to update their work colleagues on whatever they were doing.  The attitude of the work colleagues was, again typically, a collective shrug of dismissal.
I determined that I would be different.  I would not show up at the office and expect my working friends to drop what they were doing, welcome me in, and chat for 30 minutes.  I would not phone them, and if I emailed them the focus would be on their lives and jobs, not mine.  And I wouldn’t expect a reply.  (Good thing!  I rarely send any of them an email (usually a copy of a comic strip that satirizes the working environment there – especially some Dilbert strips!), and never get a reply.)

But I’ve recently been seeing not-so-subtle indications of how broad-based the stereotype of “old retired guy = irrelevant” really is.  How?  Well, as anyone who has followed my blog knows, I enjoy expressing my opinion.  As an outworking of that enjoyment I participate in a number of online forums and opinion polling sites.  I mean, why not?  I have the time, and some of those sites offer rewards (like gift cards!) that I really use.  

So, what’s the trouble?  Well, many/most of the polls I complete ask “qualifying” questions at the beginning to identify the demographic of the respondent.  Often they’ll ask for zip code, annual income range, marital status, home ownership vs. rental, and so on.  But just about every poll also asks for age/birth year.  And many ask about employment status.

 If I am honest – indicate my real age and that I’m retired – I’m almost always re-directed to a “no thanks” screen and told to “try again another time.”

But if I then go back, take ten years off my real age and check the “employed full time” box, bingo!  I’m in.  My opinion is then considered valid.  I’m relevant!

I know – that’s cheating!  But the opinions I express are the same as the ones I had 10 years ago!  So am I really cheating?  Do most people’s opinions change in 10 years, once they pass 45 or so?

I'm guessing that most of the groups who write and sell these polls are people in their 20s and 30s.  To them, anyone over 50 is a dinosaur.  When I was 30 I probably felt the same way.  Okay, I DID feel the same way.

Add to that the fear of many younger workers that we baby boomers will suck dry all of their Social Security as we dodder off into oblivion.  No wonder they consider us irrelevant.  Most probably wish they could put us out on the ice floe and let us drift off to . . . wherever.

 Maybe I should dye my gray hair a darker color and lie about my age.  At least then I’d be considered relevant again! 

 That, or be considered even more senile than now. 

 What a choice.  No wonder many old people seniors act bitter!


kenju said...

I'm there too, so I know what you mean. When I decided to let my hair go gray, my husband told me that I would regret it. He meant that I would not be hired for as many wedding flower jobs, and he was right. People "perceived" that I was too old to do the job (the same jobs I am now doing for other florists, and doing just as capably as always.) I still have my hair natural and will continue to do so. If younger people cannot see my abilities or relevance due to my hair and my age, then to heck with them.

Monica Devinev said...

The reason we are floating off into oblivion is because we are. Our faces droop, our once sparkling eyes recede. Not a pretty picture; never has been. What irks me worse is old people dressing up "as if" they were young, and doing a can-can (and posting it on UTube). Geez. Just be what you are. Once retired, drop the work thing for good-it's over; travel, get out and experience the world, have fun, take classes. You can learn until the day you're dead; no one can take that away!

Duke_of_Earle said...

Well put, Monica. "Be what you are." If only more folks would take that advice to heart!

Nankin said...

When I retired, I assumed (correctly) that all the problems in my former work area would be blamed on me. I've seen it too often. I have maintained contact with a few people, but the rest can toddle off to where ever young, self-centered worker bees go.
I'm having the time of my life.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Nan, First, congrats on the book contract! Let me know when I can buy a copy, please. I too (correctly) figured some lingering HR problems at my place of employment would be blamed on me. And, some of them should have been. I got a little lazy during those last 6 months and didn't address everything I should have. Now I've learned that my replacement, whom I helped select, is leaving for greener pastures so the search is on again. But y'know, I really don't care! I too am having the time of my life. Retirement is wonderful!

Riverwatch said...

How quickly the work place fades into history. Welcome to a whole new world!