More news from the pre-tirement frontline.
I have to admit I’m settling down very comfortably into the new routine of only working four days a week – soon to be three – and am finding that I have more than enough to keep me occupied. I’m one of the lucky ones, I know, being sufficiently well-off to make my own decision as to when to head off into the sunset.
What doesn’t help, though, when you have got your head round the idea of no longer being a 9 to 5 wage slave, is reading reports in my favourite medical journal, Plos One, that researchers from Stony Brook University and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria (funded by the European Research Council (natch) otherwise it might have been Stoney Broke) that middle age begins at 60.
On the one hand, that’s good news. After all, having a ticket to freedom at the onset of middle age means many more years to enjoy myself when I can enjoy the qualitative aspects of life, not just the quantitative. But on the other hand, there is this guilt thing going on – have I thrown in the towel too soon and what if I live so long that my financial resources run dry? And this kind of research isn’t helpful in these times of pressures on public funding. Budget slashers will seize on this sort of thing to move the holy grails that keep us over-sixties focused, such as free bus passes, heating allowances and a state pension, further into the distance.
The crux of this research is the argument that those who are described as having reached old age and of being elderly should be those who only have a few years left to live. At the moment the average life expectancy in the UK is 79 for chaps and 82 for chapesses and there are signs that life expectancy is increasing significantly. Figures produced by the Office of National Statistics suggest that death rates amongst the over 65s are falling and that a newborn baby boy born in London can expect to live 6.7 years longer than if it was born 20 years ago. So it makes sense, intuitively, that the start of old age should be further down the chronological spectrum.
But there is the body and mind thing going on. I find the mind is embracing the new definition of middle age more eagerly and quickly than the body. I want to do things and, physically, I find I can still do them – it just takes longer to recover. It is that mix of the physical and the mental that the statistical analysis doesn’t take account of.
Still, the phone has begun ringing and intriguing e-mails have started coming in suggesting that some people somewhere think I may have something still to contribute should I care to. The good thing is that it would be on my terms. But it has left me wondering whether I am perceived as having some skills which are only needed from time to time but when they are, they command a premium.
Take safe-cracking. The inexorable march towards a cashless society has meant that the old-fashioned bank hold-up or safe job is pretty much a thing of the past. And so when one is being planned, those with the necessary skills are thin on the ground. The fascinating thing about the Hatton Garden jewellery heist (and as matters are sub-judicial I have to be careful here) is the age of some of the alleged suspects. Three who have had their collar felt were in their seventies but they may well have plugged a skills gap. Having watched a reconstruction of the raid which involved abseiling down a lift shaft, I’m sure it was a mind over body decision to get involved and I bet they ached the next day!
Pumpkins are doing well and are now outside in their grow bags. Each transplanting has engendered a level of anxiety I have not experienced for some time. I remain in hope.