JUNE 14, 1949
NEW YORK, Monday—I have a letter that starts this way: "This will be a strange request but it has to do with the women between the ages of forty-five and fifty. The agencies I have filed applications with tell me I am too old. They prefer someone younger. What is to become of me? Placed on the shelf and forgotten? There is a lot of good material in some of us oldsters but we are just not given a chance."
It has been suggested that the federal government take advantage of the experience and wisdom acquired by our Presidents by finding them a place in government after their terms have expired. And it's hardly likely that any of these men would be under 60 years of age. I wonder if that same idea could not be carried down the line. Why shouldn't there be an appreciation in industry and in the professions of the value of experience and knowledge gained throughout the years of one's life? Forty-five to 50 is not really very old.
The services, schools, colleges, etc., set the retiring age between 60 and 65, as a rule, but there is many a man and woman who have done good work beyond the 70 mark. Many of the best housekeepers I have known were over 70 years old and they would have been insulted at the suggestion that they could not still do a good job in their homes—and what is more demanding and varied than the work of a home?
I realize fully that certain physical limitations come with age. But with proper care and advice, they do not really hinder the doing of good work. Certainly, between 45 and 60 most people have more to contribute than at any other age, in almost any occupation, unless they are in poor health.
Besides, this habit of not employing people between those ages is putting an undue burden on the taxpayers of the nation and on the young people. They cannot marry and have homes of their own if they have to take care of the older people for such a long period of their lives.
I realize that the requirements made of industry in the way of Social Security and old-age pensions naturally tends to make employers look for younger people. As a matter of fact, however, many an older person will give steadier and better work and actually be stronger and healthier in the years between 45 and 60.
It seems to me that modern psychiatry could help people to grow old wisely. They are free of so many tensions. They should have learned to face the difficulties that seemed insurmountable in youth with equanimity and calm by the time they are middle-aged. They should be the balance wheel in every office in every industry, in every profession, pointing out both sides of a question, showing that what seems unbearable today is a passing condition and may be met with patience and fortitude.
Youth is a time for crusading and impatience. They are necessary attributes of youth, but youth needs the coolness, balance and maturity of the middle years or it will often go too far.
I put in this plea, therefore, for greater consideration of the value of the middle years of life. We cannot afford to put experience and maturity on the shelf.