freedom 55…not for all!

Here in Canada, fifty-five is becoming the retirement age for the lucky few who have secure pension plans. Meanwhile, some unions are fighting against mandatory retirement at sixty or even sixty-five, much to the frustration of younger workers seeking employment or an opportunity to move up in their careers. For those who are self-employed, the age of retirement is not so clear cut. And in professions that are experiencing a shortage (such as health-care), there is pressure to work for as long as one is able to.

In our local church, our diocesan priests can ask to retire at sixty-five. With the current shortage, many continue full parish and administrative duties past this age. Bishops can look forward to `freedom 75`, the canonical age at which they must retire. Cardinals have voting rights within a papal conclave until the age of eighty.

I have friends who are religious sisters, brothers and priests who continue to serve their congregations in leadership roles well into their sixties and seventies. Their work requires extensive travel to oversee mission projects and visit foundations in all corners of the developing world. It exhausts me just to think of the fatigue and jet lag. Many vowed religious `retire` from professional careers only to give their time and energy to social justice work.

My own parents retired early, but never stopped being active. My father is an inspector of home-built aircraft. He mentors other home-builders while working on his own plane. My mother turned to art in her fifties, and is now an accomplished artist. They are both voracious readers and love a good discussion. They are my model and inspiration, showing me how to nurture and support our creative potential throughout life.

Retirement can be a misnomer. How many retired friends do you have that say they`re busier than ever? My husband is turning fifty-five next week. No, there is no retirement in our near future. Our game plan is to continue working as long as we can provide a service to our community. But we are learning to slow down and enjoy more holy leisure along the way!

2 thoughts on “freedom 55…not for all!

  1. I think we in the Catholic tradition have many icons of aging that I would classify as heroic, they continue to be active and highly productive well into their eighties. Of recent memory we have Mother Teresa of Calcutta
    and John Paul II. I wonder if the way they lived and modeled aging puts unrealistic expectations on those experiencing the loss of energy and the physical limitations of growing old.

    I few years ago I a religious brother I had interviewed for a special project I was involved in asked me to go for a walk with him so we could continue our talk. He was eighty years old and still teaching high school. I was humbled by this request and then our subsequent talk. He began the conversation by saying, “I have never been eighty before, do you think I am doing OK?” He confessed to needing to take a nap each afternoon. He was concerned about becoming the “old fool” still in the classroom and no longer being affective, but continuing to work. I told him that although I have never experienced eighty, he appeared to be doing very well. I assured him that the same discernment process he had used all his life would help him now in knowing when it was time to stop teaching.

    Each of us coming from a spiritual tradition with heroic icons of aging needs to be concerned about becoming the “holy fool”. As we age we will need to give ourselves and others the permission to stop the kind of working and productivity that was once such a blessing in our lives.
    Is this God’s call at this time in life to interiority ?

  2. “Each of us coming from a spiritual tradition with heroic icons of aging needs to be concerned about becoming the “holy fool”. ”

    Again, you help us to look deeper into the issue, Ray. As with so many other issues, we need to go beyond black and white rules and expectations and into the gray areas…no pun intended – okay, maybe a wee one! 😉 We all need to discern the right time for us. It takes true wisdom to know when to gracefully retire from a job. The good of those we serve, not just our own needs,must be a priority. And, we must be able to retire without guilt after a life-time of work. I keep thinking of the holiness of leisure….

    Thank you, as always!

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