Aging and Productivity, Retirement and Cognitive Achievement

I “pilfered” the title from Prof. Dr. Axel Börsch-Supan (Director of the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging MEA) at Max-Planck-Institute for Social Justice and Social Politics. He gave a strong presentation with the same title at the event “How to Guarantee Experience for Future Generations (Erfahrung für die Zukunft sichern)” at TUM for the „Project TUM Emeriti of Excellence“ .

I already wrote about this presentation in my article: “A rolling stone gathers no moss (Wer rastet, der rostet)”.  For me, the event brought many new, well-researched items of information. Professor Börsch-Supan proved in a constructive way that the early retirement habits of our contemporary times are wrong. He also told us that this is detrimental for all parties concerned: the retirees, the enterprises acting in this manner and all of us.

A short time ago, I met a friend whom I hold in very high esteem. He is the same age as I am. A few months ago, he entered the “early retirement” phase. And he is a good proof of all I learned in the presentation. Here is how I often see pre-retirement:

It is almost complex (very complicated) and serves many critical themes. If you know this, you also know how expert know-how is extremely important in this sector.

A friend of mine is a top expert when it comes to a very relevant database technology. He is particularly adept with extreme volumes and demand situations. In all Europe, there are probably only a few experts who can hold a torch to him.

My friend is the same age as I am. His employer is a first-class concern. A few years ago, this concern offered a lavish early retirement package to its older employees, practically following the principle “handing out to all and sundry”. My friend, too, took the bait.

A few years later, the day has arrived. My friend is now retired. Mind you, he is still as much of a first-class expert as he used to be. Financially spoken, he made a good deal.

However, he also realized that his knowledge will be missed by the enterprise. Consequently, he tries to hand it on to his colleagues in a pro-active way. He offers to teach workshops on a voluntary basis, even after office hours.  Because, due to all the pressure during office hours, there is simply no time left. This concept, however, does not work well. He is rather disappointed to see that there is not much interest and that hardly anybody wants to come and learn from him.

Then the day of retirement comes. And now you have nothing but losers:

The concern:
Some very important know-how is lost. If, for example, in the future, a process comes to a standstill because the IT does not work as it should, it might well be because something is not as it used to be. Because the know-how is now lost and consequently there are a few things that will no longer run as smoothly as they did before.

My friend:
Initially, he found early retirement absolutely thrilling. The new “freedom” was just wonderful. There were still a number of activities left from the time as an active member of the work-force. Good intentions were formulated – and adhered to. A few months later, everything already looks different. Less social contacts, the good intensions, too, are no longer quite as strictly put into practice … And slowly frustration comes. I witness it quite closely.

This friend does actually exist. However, it is not one friend. Everything I understood from the presentation seems to match reality.

When all is said and done, everything the speaker told us and warned us against actually happens in real life:

Use it – or – lose it.

Well, let us wait and see if I can learn something from this for my future.

(Translated by EG)

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