Re-evaluate retirement age due to higher life expectancy

A couple shares a happy moment at home. [Getty Images]

On October 1, the world marked the International Day of Older Persons. The day recognises the significance of the senior members of our society.

In recent months, I have attended farewell parties for two of my retiring colleagues. In both cases, it took the rest of the employees by surprise because their sprightful appearances contrasted their six decades of life on earth.

Ageing and old age are no longer a sombre reality. Many people retire at 60 even when they look strong and ready to begin the marathon of life again.

Maybe we need to re-evaluate the retirement age. A longer life expectancy is now redefining the State and our attitude towards labour, health, innovation and even policy.

In the 1990s, the State retired a number of its employees at 55, as part of the public sector reforms to contain the wage bill. This forced retirement caught many civil servants unprepared.

They were handed symbolic tools of retirement such as wheelbarrows and hoes, meaning that their natural landing place should be the countryside to subsist on their farms.

Imagine being a teacher in Nairobi for 35 years of your adult life and suddenly finding yourself cut off from the urban environment, lonely and despairing in your ancestral land in Uyoma.

The despondency led to the quick demise of several retirees.

Today, the State and many employers have well-structured retirement plans for their employees - preparing them for their economic, psychological, and post-formal employment social life.

Apart from the pension schemes, soon-to-retire employees undergo compulsory training which is part of the Human Resource Management annual performance targets.

Besides employer inputs, the ingenuity of the 21st Century human being is improving the quality of life. We expect to live longer today than at the beginning of the century.

The UN reported in 2021 that the number of centenarians will rise to 573,000 worldwide. This makes the retirement age of 60 look so teenage. Kenya recently attained a lower-middle income classification with an expanded GDP.

This will have a positive reflection on the Human Development Index indicated by long life, decent standard of living and being knowledgeable. Life expectancy in Kenya today is 67 years, comparable to the 48.4 years at the birth of our country in 1963.

Ageing is not a curse and should not be a basis for employment discrimination.

The writer is a public servant with interest in topical issues