French citizens have been up in arms because their government is forcing them to work past the age of 60, and North Americans are up in arms because our government will not let them work past 60, or at least used to force retirement.

French retirees are looking forward to long dinners and family get-togethers on country estates. I am sure the wine and croissants flow as freely as the family love. North Americans retirees are looking forward to their summer RV trip to Alaska. The implications for society are huge.

Recently the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Air Canada to reinstate and compensate two 67-year-old pilots who were forced to retire at age 60. The tribunal called such an age-based company policy “ageism” violating human rights. I guess as a young person it seems like ageism flows only one way. I have been turned down from job applications because I “did not have enough life experience.” I had plenty of experience for that job, but because I was not yet 30, I did not qualify. Is this not ageism?

Worst still, I have watched others get promotions over me who had less experience at the job. They had other experience at other jobs completely unrelated, but the only thing they had over me was 10-20 years of age. This is ageism too.

It seems to me that North American society needs to wake up. My generation is not having kids. We cannot land a career. We are having a hard time paying the bills. It doesn’t help that there is a generation ahead of us who is refusing to retire. Yes, there are some members of my generation who are making huge short-term money and spending it irresponsibly on toys, often even on credit. But this is not the norm. Such people attract a lot of attention to themselves because their toys take up a lot of parking space and catch the eye. It is much harder to see the 30-year-old graphics designer taking public transit who has worked in the industry for over 10 years and has yet to get a meaningful raise. It is hard to see the business school graduate who is 26 years old and still working as an intern or for under $30,000/year in the city and still living in his parent’s basement.

Retirement is not just a personal decision, it is a societal decision. If the current retiring age generation wants to encourage younger generations to step up, become part of society, start having a few kids, and start voting then we need to enforce retirement policies. If older generations are happy with my generation just biding their time as ski bums, chasing short term relationships without wanting to have any kids, while waiting for the world to take us seriously when we are 30-40, then keep on working into your 70s and 80s.

I am not saying that people should just retire and do nothing. But why do you need to be an airline pilot, or teacher or public servant past the age of 65? What about small business? What about volunteering for organizations? What about being active grandparents? What about that hobby farm? It seems to me we have it backwards. We expect younger people to give their time away getting experience. When it should be retired persons giving their time away helping younger people gain experience.

If I can ever afford kids, which I seriously doubt, it sure would be nice to have a public school with other kids for them to attend. Is it ageism to say that 67-year-olds cannot have kids? No! This is just nature. I don’t know about you, but I am not keen on the idea of 70-year-old airline pilots. Heart attack rates are not based on ageism, they are based on nature. There are plenty of 50-year-old pilots with plenty of experience who are still sharp as a tack. This is not ageism, this is being realistic and mature. General policies for the common good based on age are not ageism. Need I start on minimum age to vote, drink, drive, smoke and gamble?

Joe Nusse