Reflection On Retirement

WritingI started writing this post in longhand on a paper tablet while waiting for the two AA batteries I’d gotten from the freezer to warm up. My computer had sent me a message that my wireless mouse battery life was low.

I read somewhere a long time ago that writing is a psychoneuromotor exercise, which was meant to extol the old way of writing, using a pen on paper.

It’s an old-fashioned way to write, yet strangely comforting. Still, I wonder if the neural impulse takes the same path when you use a typewriter…or a computer?

Yes, we store batteries in the freezer to prolong the life of them. Doesn’t everyone do that? Or is that just one of many old wives tales? After replacing them, the message that the battery life was low didn’t go away–for a long time.

So much for that. I might have tossed perfectly good batteries, even if they were getting a little old. And it turns out that freezing batteries can actually shorten their useful life, according to one online article.

That makes me a little nervous about the assumption that wisdom is a natural outcome of getting older. My wife alerted me to this article about managing aging health care professionals. The author sounds a little more ambivalent about the topic in the text than the title indicates.

One the other hand, The University of Virginia Health System has had a requirement for several years now making it mandatory for a doctor to undergo a neurocognitive and physical exam when she hits 60 years of age–or risk losing her hospital privileges. The exam take 4 hours and cost the physician’s clinical department $2,000.

Not everybody like the idea, even acknowledging the truism that even doctors can get too old to do what they do, or what they try to do in an already highly regulated health care system. It sounds like ageism to me.

Just because we’re getting older doesn’t necessarily mean we need to retire. There’s an admittedly imperfect analogy to the passenger train, which was retired a long time ago. Many lamented its passing, including E.B. White:

If our future journeys are to be little different from flashes of light, with no interim landscape and no interim thought, I think we will have lost the whole good of journeying and will have succumbed to a mere preoccupation with getting there. I believe journeys have value in themselves. and are not just a device for saving time–which never gets saved in the end anyway. Railroad men should take courage when they look at a jet plane, or even at a poky old airliner circling at two hundred miles an hour over an airport waiting for the fog to lift or for its nose wheel to lock into position. The railroad has qualities none can take away, virtues that have never been surpassed.–from The Railroad in Essays of E.B. White

One of those virtues can be the awareness of the importance of flexibility and the value of lifelong learning.

I took our batteries out of the freezer.

One thought on “Reflection On Retirement

  1. Jim,

    Ageism is alive and well and probably facilitated by managed care. The health care industrial complex wants to eliminate all collective memory of the way health care used to be run. There is no better way than stamping out older physicians. The health and cognitive screening of 60 year olds to practice medicine seems like a natural extension of that bias. At the minimum, the originators of the idea must be oblivious to the perils of screening in a population that is carefully selected for performing a stressful high performance job and for whom there are no obvious complaints.

    As I head toward the same milestone and more of my colleagues find out about it the responses I usually get are:

    1. The field will miss you.
    2. You can’t really retire can you? You need to be doing something.
    3. Won’t you be bored?
    4. Can’t you make a lateral move into administration?
    5. We need you to stay at this job.
    6. Disinterest and apathy about my next move.

    I suppose it depends on the degree of affiliation that you have with the person reacting. But I think in the end it also comes down to whether or not you can walk away when you are at the top of your game. The trade off is that that clock is ticking and continuing to work like a dog as you age is a recipe for disaster.

    Good luck with your decision.


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