News - October 8, 2009

65 and still going on: Is working longer a boon or a bane?

Work till we're 67 - looks like we can't avoid this. Is working longer that bad?

Rob Nout (63), senior university lecturer in Food Microbiology, with a year and a half to go:
'If you can work longer, it's a blessing. There are no hindrances in my case. I feel good and enjoy my work. Teaching gives me much contact with young people; they keep you active and youthful. I see myself as a lucky person, but don't take that for granted; it can be over very suddenly. I'm the only one in my reunion club who is still working. The rest have stopped or are too exhausted to go on. I'll just continue after the end date. I've all sorts of projects to attend to and PhD candidates to guide; I can't just stop.'
Jeanne Kole-Wijnstekers (63) telephone operator with Facilities Services:
'If I had to, I would be able to go on. My work is not strenuous and I enjoy it, although 65 years would have been a nice age to stop. I live in Den Bosch and spend much time commuting, while my husband has already retired. I don't think that the retirement age should be raised to 67 years for everyone, and not at all for people who do heavy physical work. After working for forty years, you should be free to stop, since you have done your best for the society.'
Ger Vos (65), choir conductor, WSKOV, retired since April:
'I find that working on after the retirement age is a gift. Mentally and physically, I was still a long way from stopping; I still have a lot of vigour and things to pass on. An artist is never really finished. It's nonsense to have to 'park' your knowledge and experience or, even worse, write these off. Retiring at age 65 was what Wageningen UR wanted me to do; I wasn't allowed to continue working. And yet, nothing has really changed for me, since I still carry on my activities with the WSKOV choir. I'm no longer paid directly by Wageningen UR but via the association. I'm not an employee anymore and not entitled to extra payments such as holiday bonuses or social benefits. I'm not so pleased about that.'
Anne Mie Emons (67), professor of Plant Cell Biology:
'If I hadn't enjoyed my work, I would have stopped long ago. That I still have so much pleasure is perhaps because I only joined the university ten years after my graduation. Although I have been a civil servant for forty years this month, I have only been in the scientific sector for thirty years, a step I took deliberately only after the children were older. I'm still occupied full-time now, half of the time in my job in Wageningen. In addition, I am a university professor in Beijing, I have an attachment with the AMOLF institute in Amsterdam, and I do miscellaneous tasks for Wageningen UR as the acting rector. My farewell would be in 2011; we will organize a big congress and I will give my farewell speech there, since my career is an international one first and foremost. By then, most of my PhD candidates would have finished, and an NWO post-doc project would have been completed. I would really not be able to leave at 65.'
Piet Looise (66), old Economics lecturer at Van Hall Larenstein:
'If people have to work longer, the organization should listen to them even more carefully. I don't think it's a good idea to make people suddenly stop doing the work at age 67 which they have been told to do since they were 40. It's better to use a sliding scale. It should be possible to adjust and reduce their workload, eventually in exchange for less pay. I think that very few people in the education sector can work the full hundred percent up to age 65. It's already quite impossible to handle a full-time teaching job, even without much task diversity.'
Jos Smit (63), researcher in LEI, his retirement just a few months away:
'I don't consider it a bane to have to work on, but on the other hand, I've had enough. If people retire at an older age, the organization has to be prepared. A feeling now prevails, as if it says: the 60-pluses will be leaving soon. This attitude has to change because 67 is still a long way off. However, you could have enough of some aspects of your work at a certain point in time and want to give those up. For me, I'm done with the frequent travels within Europe. Stopping is a positive choice for me. I will then have time not only for volunteer work but to wallow in historic archives.'
Herman Eijsackers (63), member of Corporate Staff and Scientific Advisory Board, still a year and a half to go:
'I would like to work longer as I have so much pleasure in my work. I certainly would remain active as a volunteer after my retirement. But don't forget that I have a favourable position. As an academic researcher, I have a lot of freedom and I can make choices, but if your boss tells you exactly what to do and you get the same work all the time, I can imagine that you'd want to retire at age 65. People should be allowed to stop due to work reasons or when they are no longer fit when they reach 65.'