When Andrew Fisher and Alfred Deakin combined together to have a bi-partisan Pension Bill passed through Parliament in 1908, they asked an Actuary for advice on what age most workers could be expected to die.
The actuary did not hesitate to say,
‘The vast majority of them will not make it to 65’.
Fisher and Deakin both knew that the government could not afford a huge pension payout so they set the pension age at 65. Up until that time, all Australians had no option but to work until they died.
Those 65 year olds of 1908 are now the 90 year olds of today as longevity for Australians has increased by 25 years over the century that has passed.
Now, we are faced with the fact that millions of Australians will live to a very old age, kept alive by costly pharmaceutical, medical and hospital expenditure that will cripple the nation along with burgeoning pensions. And, at least a million of us will suffer from Dementia, especially Alzheimers.
A crucial issue is that most Australians will have inadequate superannuation and its poor returns will peter out soon after they reach 80 unless we have a huge increase in contributions – at least 15% from employers, plus far more in personal contributions.
Above all, it will be essential that no one is allowed to access superannuation until they are 70 and taking it as a lump sum must be banned as too many blow it quickly and go on the pension.
However, all of this will be of no avail unless employers start hiring Seniors into the work force.
Too many of them have a policy of not hiring anyone over 50 and the worst offenders of all are governments whose public service regulations force employees to retire early and make it almost impossible for anyone of mature years to apply for a position.
We need laws that require every employer to have at least 10% of their staff who are Seniors or it will be pointless to raise the Pension and Superannuation Age to 70 as most will have to apply for the dole.
All of this means that this nation needs a positive plan to turn ageing into an asset.
We won’t get far with it if we follow the coverage in the Main Stream Media. Headlines like ‘Work till you drop’ trivialise the matter. A more accurate headline would have been ‘Australia is the most overpaid, underworked and uncompetitive nation in the world’.
The most positive and pragmatic thing we can do is to commence action now, particularly in squarely facing up to the important decision to raise the retirement age to 70 as this must happen far sooner than the Productivity Commission has recommended. Every three years, commencing in 2015, we can raise the retirement age by one year.
Side by side, there must be a huge program of preventative health and tele-health to get the nation’s medical bills down, in tandem with an expansion of recreation and tourism industries where Seniors can contribute significantly to economic growth.
In addition, we will need a huge attitude change to growing old as it is a time of life where we can contribute wisdom and experience more than ever before.
Essential to it all will be to diminish our sense of entitlement and acknowledge that Australia owes us nothing. We owe a lot to Australia for the greatest lifestyle in the world.
If we can become a nation of givers rather than getters, the Ageing Tsunami will lose its sting and we will lead the world in ensuring that we are a land of opportunity for the vision that comes with greying hair.