Opinion

COLUMN: Future proves worrisome at any age

By Pirjo Raits

A recent survey pointed to the fact that most older folks are not worried about aging.

It appears that the youngest people taking part in the survey are more worried.

Young people under 25 worried about aging? Preposterous.

Maybe not. Those under 25 have good reason to be worried. When they reach retirement age, will they be able to count on the government to ease their financial burdens? Highly unlikely.

So yes, they should be concerned – so concerned, in fact, that they are probably already starting to put money aside in RRSPs. Kind of sad, really, to have to be thinking today about one’s life 40 years down the road.

Those of us who were children of the 1960s and ’70s had the opportunity to try all kinds of things before we settled down to raise families and contribute to society. We got to play first.

Our generation was fortunate in that we never had to fight in a war like our parents or grandparents.

We didn’t have to worry about recession and jobs and being able to afford a house.

It was the late 1960s and the whole world was open to us. We travelled and hitchhiked around Europe, joined communes, found jobs in areas that appealed to us and generally did as we pleased. The jobs were out there for anyone who wanted to work.

Yes, there were protests, but it was most often the authorities who abused their power, not the public. Protests were about race, politics, social inequity and justice.

While some things have changed, others remain the same. The young are restless, as they have always been.

But young adults who graduate from university or college can no longer be assured of finding a job in their chosen field. They are inexperienced and in debt and often have to resort to poorly paid jobs – many still live with their parents because they cannot afford to live on their own. Their world isn’t looking like such a good place and they have reason to be anxious.

It’s different for much of the older generation (their parents).

They are still able to tap into their company pensions – adding in their government pensions, life is pretty decent for them. They can travel to sunny destinations in the winter and indulge themselves in golf games and shopping. This may well be the last generation able to enjoy a relatively carefree retirement.

But while the survey states people between 55 and 64 aren’t worried, I believe many individuals in that age bracket are.

Not everyone wants to spend their remaining healthy years at a part-time, low-paying job to supplement their meagre Canada Pension Plan or Old Age Security cheques. What they did manage to save won’t go that far.

The government does not owe us a living any more than our parents do. What you didn’t do (like save) during your working years may come back to haunt you.

Who knew?

The world is changing rapidly and the technological age is shrinking the job market, rather than expanding it. Jobs are disappearing while the government tries to revamp Canada’s employment insurance to ensure Canadians get whatever jobs are out there.

We can no longer count on the public service to provide jobs with life-long security. Public servants and bureaucrats have sunk some countries by being so top-heavy and weaving so much red tape that it is impossible to escape going under. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, so we can’t even escape it by moving elsewhere.

This is worrisome for many folks. So really, I disagree with the survey. I think everyone is worried, no matter what their age.

As Bob Dylan once sang: “For the times they are a-changin’.”

Pirjo Raits is editor of the Sooke News Mirror, a Black Press newspaper.

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