Thursday, June 5, 2014
Today I am grateful for older workers. Even if people are older, if they can still do the job and WANT to, I believe they should be allowed to continue working. Wanting too is the key for me. Wanting, not HAVING to.
I am happy when I encounter an older worker, often much older than me, (and I’m aging fast), who is delighted to still be doing their job. These people have managed to adjust to the changes necessary with any job for the last 20 years. Technology alone might have sent some screaming into the night. Me included. Yet they are still there.
What makes me sad is when I see an older person with clear medical issues, who is nearly 80 years old, working because they HAVE to. It is very, very difficult to make ends meet when you are trying to live on a “fixed”, inadequate income. Some parents complain because older workers are robbing their teens of employment. Young people spout off their mouths about how old people should have planned better because they don’t want to take care of “us”. You know what? Many of them did plan. They planned just fine. But then banks went TILT and many employees watched their company’s owners and executives flee with huge incomes while they, the worker bees got screwed big time. No pensions. Some of us worked hard to invest for our future only to have the bottom fall out of the stock market, sending our investments plunging with very little time for us to recover. You can’t recoup if you don’t have an income to help make it happen. I’ve seen some of those male worker bees loading cosmetic shelves at Walmart. Some of those people who had one plan, but society and the times changed the rules mid-stream, are asking questions like, “Do you want fries with that?” How sad. How very, very sad. They should be planning trips to visit grandkids across country, but they can’t because they have to work.
I’m not sure what I expect to happen, but I sure wish things would change. I love, love, love retirement because it affords me the joy of writing. I know it’s a luxury each time I sit at my keyboard. I look at want ads and think maybe I should float my resume before it’s too late. Or go out as a temp again. But everything in my guts says to not get locked into another job because writing success is right around the corner. A dreamer? Yeah, I know. But I want to be a paid writer, even though it sounds like a farfetched pipe dream, so I’m holding out as long as I can.
My eighty-seven-year-old mom talks about her rent going up ten dollars a month and panics. She thinks I don’t get it, but I’m on a fixed income now, too. I get it. My COBRA insurance has increased nearly sixty bucks a month. Yeah mom, I get it. I don’t have sixty extra bucks coming in, either. It already was outlandishly expensive. The National Healthcare System was not a better deal because of my age. It was less coverage at the same cost. It wasn’t worth making the change so I’ll be stuck with COBRA for one more year.
I’m glad that older people have jobs and I am ashamed to admit that I have been unkind. Sometimes I’ve been impatient with them. Not so they’d know it. In my mind. Sometimes I’ve acted like they are still working just to annoy me. I’ve said to myself, “Why are you working? Go home! You can’t handle this anymore and you’re making me crazy.” I’m ashamed of that. Very ashamed. I’m going to change.
I’m going to remember the empathy I feel right now. When I see older workers struggling at their jobs I will remember they probably have no other choice. And I’m going to learn how to be more patient, more forgiving for their lack of speed, more tolerant of their confusion at the keyboard, more understanding that they are frustrated and probably not living the “golden years” they pictured when they were raising families. I hope our society and government officials do the same. I long for the time when older people can completely retire if they want to, comfortably and without the need to work to supplement their income. That’s a gratitude I can’t wait to write.
I am very grateful for older workers. At least they know how to think, how to look in your eyes, how to smile, how to make decisions, how to treat customers with manners and properly count back my change, without a cash register doing all of their thinking for them!