What if we branded or tattooed the term “OLD” on people’s foreheads once they reached retirement age? It would be a way to publicly acknowledge that the people who qualify for Social Security and/or Medicare are in mental and physical decline … and are not as valuable or essential as the rest of us. It would also help explain why these people drive so slow, can’t remember anything and are terrible with technology.

Yes, some of these people may have had a nice career and even achieved some meaningful things. Some may feel they can still do more. But now that they have entered the retirement zone, it’s time for them to step aside and take their place out in the pasture. It’s not always easy to do, and some may try to fight against the forces of society. But that’s what happens when you get old—you get cranky and are set in your ways.

Now that I have alienated half of my readers and most of the baby boomers across North America, let me emphasize that these thoughts, ideas and beliefs are exactly what the problem is with the traditional retirement age. The issue is twofold. First, social norms and culture haven’t adapted to longer life spans and working years. Second, Corporate America continues to use an age-based approach to productivity and retirement that is not only old and outdated but also stigmatizes people in the workplace.

To prove my point, take a look at the study “Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality” from the Pew Research Center. The researchers asked nearly 3,000 adults, from age 18 to over 65, when they considered a person to be old. Not surprisingly, the starting point for when old age begins depends on whom you ask.

• The average response of adults under 30 is that old age begins at 60. More than half of them said old age actually begins before people hit their 60th birthday.

• Adults between the ages of 30 and 49 think old age begins at 69.

• People who are currently age 50 to 64 believe old age starts at 72.

• Respondents who are 65 and older say old age begins at 74.

What is also interesting is that among the respondents who were 65 to 74, only 21% said they feel old. Even among those 75 and older, just 35% said they feel old.

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