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Why 65 is old – Blame Politics

Tony Abbott
(L-R) Warrant Officer Jennine Riches from Multi National Base Command – Tarin Kot with Prime Minister Tony Abbott on October 28. DoD photo by Cpl. Mark Doran, Australian Defence Force/Released.

This election, it’s important to remember the impact politicians can have on society. For example, the concept of the older person.

There is ongoing debate regarding what constitutes an older person, but it generally centres around a magic number. In 2012 the Australian Human Rights Commission arranged a study in to Age Discrimination. As part of the survey, they asked people what they regarded constituted an older person. People under the age of 55 generally said that it was those who were 65 and older. Those who were over 65 regarded it as related to a change in stage of life – such as social circumstances or health.

But where did we get the number 65 from? Like most things, we can blame the Germans. Faced with rising liberal sentiment and the threat of losing power, Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, the “Iron Chancellor”, introduced the world’s first national pension system. Initially set at age 70, it was later revised to 65, and the concept stuck, and the world went on to adopt a retirement age of 65. This pension, by the way, was introduced in 1889, when life expectancy was approximately 39. It hasn’t really been updated since then, and billions have lived with the knowledge that their productive life is expected to end at 65 – because a conservative said so, because he was frightened of liberals.

So, this election, be mindful of the impact our politicians can have on the way we work, live, and even think. Fortunately, when it comes to destructive political movements, the Germans seem to have learned their lesson. We might need a bit more time, or hopefully not. We’ve got until the age of 65 either way.

Neil R Jeyasingam
08 May, 2019
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