The perversion of active aging.

Maybe some day I’ll write about happy things, but today is not that day.

It shouldn’t be news that the Singapore Government is pushing the idea of active aging, as exemplified by the following article:

The impetus behind this is obvious. Like most developed countries, the Singapore population is aging, and we are facing the possibility of a generation that shrinks for the first time possibly ever, barring brutal wars and catastrophes. There is therefore a desire to keep workers productive for as long as possible, to keep the ratio of producers and dependants as manageable as possible.

But surely there’s something to be said for just letting people retire in peace whenever their body starts giving way.

Because despite the fawning terms the article uses to describe a 70 year old woman working 11 hour days, the reality is much grimmer for many other elderly workers.

I’ve worked alongside an old lady, white in the hair, who are at the job for fifty hours a week, with only one day off. She goes at it all the way through evening peak hours all the way to 4am in the morning. I’ve never asked her much about her life, but I do know she once took a few days off because her brother passed away and was back at work on Monday. I do know her daughter called our managers to bitch them out for overworking her elderly mother.

I can’t imagine she’s doing this for “fun.” Or she relishes being “paid to exercise.” And yet this is what we’re dealing with: People in their 60s and 70s who can’t survive without killing themselves at work.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the article in particular is headlining with a delivery worker and then juxtaposing it with feel good stories about older people indulging in their mostly highly physical hobbies as though they’re at all similar.

Don’t get me wrong, my disdain for “active aging” has little to do with actually being active in your old age. I think it’s great that old ladies can become Youtube sensations doing makeup guides and cooking. In fact, having seen the alternative of what can happen while sitting at home watching TV all day, I encourage it in the strongest way possible (whatever my encouragement is worth.)

But surely the difference between “here are 7 cool things you can do in your retirement” and “never retiring is all fun and games” should be obvious, and hopefully we should be able to reject it whenever the Government or one of its mouthpieces tries to pull a fast one on us.

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