JULY 14, 1956
HYDE PARK—I left Hyde Park at 9 o'clock Thursday morning to go to the Teachers' College at New Paltz, N.Y., where an institute was being held by the Retired Teachers Association. There, I was asked to speak on activities for older people, both here and abroad.
Of course, it is only since our population has been increasing in the number of older citizens that this problem of occupation for older people is becoming more and more acute. I think it will reach a point where we will have to reconsider our whole retirement system.
There are many people 60 and 65 years of age who are still in vigorous health and can be most useful because of the experience that years of work have brought them. They need not feel a burden to themselves or the community. If they are retired, they usually age very much faster.
One argument in favor of retirement at 60 or 65 is that it opens up the possibilities for youth to advance more quickly than is otherwise possible. Nevertheless, I think that quite often the whole community suffers and it would be well to look at this whole question on an individual basis.
There are people that need to retire early. I have seen people at 50 or 55 who, because of illness or incapacity, wanted retirement or needed it. This might balance the opportunities open to young people, and we might still use the experience of some of our vigorous older persons.
It has seemed to me for a long time that there is one thing we could do to make our retired teachers a real value to their communities.
Each school would have a room, pleasantly furnished and with a few books for persons of different ages as well as some comfortable chairs. The room would be known as the "quiet room," a place where all youngsters could go if they wished to be alone and quiet.
The school would have at least one retired teacher—man or woman, or perhaps both—who would be occupied but not so occupied that a youngster would feel it impossible to interrupt him or her. The retired teacher might make appointments to talk with boys and girls in this room—pupils who were reported as having particular problems or difficulties which the regular classroom teacher does not have time to investigate carefully.
It must not be a question of mere curiosity: it must be a question of inspiring confidence and, through the years, of having built a sense of understanding among the young people they have taught.
I was shocked to hear not long ago that in one of our schools some older boys beat up their teacher. When this happens, you can be sure that the blame does not lie with the young people.
Somehow or other such a teacher failed to build up the respect and interest of her pupils and did not arouse a feeling in the children that she could be trusted and could understand things which perhaps the youngsters would not even talk about at home.
It seems to me that a retired teacher who has been an outstanding success and is popular in the school might, in the "quiet room" where the youngsters would be welcomed when they wished to be alone or to talk to an understanding older person, be a powerful weapon against juvenile delinquency.