The End of the Line


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September 15, 2018

I complete forms and surveys on a regular basis.

It’s part of life on the modern treadmill.

This is especially true when you have become a faithful repeat customer to numerous medical institutions. “Come back, y’hear?”

Usually there is a section on a form where you identify your age bracket. It’s for statistical purposes, you understand. It goes something like this, from a page that illustrates commonly used age groups:

  • 15-24
  • 25-34
  • 35-44
  • 45-54
  • 55-64
  • 65+

I can’t prove this, but I’m sure there used to be a higher bracket or two above 65. Some of them now end with 60+. I think a few outliers exist who still put “70” in print. Do any of you remember this lopping off of upper years on forms or surveys?

Often, the subtle thought hung in the back of my mind as I laboriously completed the latest data-gathering sheet: “Look at all those people ahead of me; I have a long time to go.”

But the list has shortened up. The speed of that happening was exacerbated by at least one category being skimmed off the top. Here I now am, in the “final” category. No way of moving up the chain.

End of the Line.

How did that happen so fast? I have been at this spot already for almost five years.

It subtly nags at me every time I face another form. I am required to admit how old I am, and in a way, say that “I am nearing the end of the line”. What if someone lives to be 97? They are lumped in with such youngsters as my wife and I. “I have been 65 or older for 32 years.”

Sure, this is a reflection of reality. The end of the line is ahead. But why is the top category trending down?

Is it our obsession with youth?

Roosevelt signs Social Security Bill

I wonder what this says about our values and the way we look at life. When the Social Security monolith was first established, the writers of the law believed few would get benefits, because a small percentage of people then expected to reach age 65.  Life expectancy then was 61. 

Was that cynicism in operation?

In some cultures age is respected and honored. There are pockets in our culture where that happens, but it’s not as prevalent as it used to be. I wonder if our society wants to see people hurry up and move off the scene. Euthanasia supporters would say “yes” to that, I suppose. So do many people who hire other people.

You are not supposed to ask age questions when interviewing prospective employees, but sooner or later the important people will find out, and I believe it is an obstacle to hiring. In other words after a certain point, the more experience and knowledge you have, the likely less employable you are. Somehow that seems backward.

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Hire the younger person – the one with the looks and energy and modern tech creativity. Go ahead. That person will be soon gone, looking for a more fulfilling job. So maybe the risk of hiring an older person only to have their stamina decline and have to move out is no worse than the near guarantee that the younger person will leave, probably just as soon, for much different reasons.

Whatever the permutations of our society, my wife and I have officially reached the “End of the Line” However, we don’t buy that line passively.

We look ahead with hope and expectancy. Statistics tend to be wild guesses.

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