Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Aging and Retirement – 3

By 1935 the Depression was in full bloom and President Franklin D. Roosevelt had to address the issue of caring for older American workers who had lost their savings in the Depression and had little support to make it to old age.  The Social Security Act of 1935 established the age of 65 as the retirement age for American workers.[1]  It is also interesting to note that the life expectancy for American workers in 1935 was 58 for men and 62 for women.   And now, with the Amended Social Security Act of 1988, the retirement age is gradually being raised to 67 by the year 2025 with life expectancy for men being 76 and women being 81. [2]

The concept of retirement from work into a season of leisure, self-enjoyment and self-fulfillment took root in the 1950s in America.  Workers were encouraged to save for the future with those savings being used for self-indulgence and personal pleasure – a reward for the hard work one had to ‘endure’ during their working career.  Communities for ‘seniors’ emerged and the concept of a leisurely season of retirement after a work career ended became a destination. 

With increasing longevity and life-expectancy growing dramatically due to improvements in health care, workers can now expect that their retirement years may be longer than their working years.  Increasing cost of living, increasing medical costs, and poor financial planning lead to older American workers seeking to extend their working years so that they have income to live and possibly save for a longer than expected life.  Seniors working as big box store greeters and counter help at McDonald’s are now common. 

The fracturing of the American family and the geographical scattering of children from their parents compounds any possible means of caring for a rapidly aging population.  Few churches or ministries have adequate means or a vision for caring for the older members.  What commitments do we have to our aging staff? How do we honor them and honor God in our relationships? Remember the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31! What goes around comes around and we will all be the “old one” someday.


[1] N.Y. Times, The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P.  March 21, 1999

[2] Life Expectancy in USA in 2010; http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005148.html

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