Jack Simpson - Older citizens aren't ready for a write-off

I hear it all the time. "When are you going to retire?" I guess anyone who was born in the 1920s and is still working might get such an inquiry. I have thought about how to answer this question because for the Lord knows today's world is full of many nuisances that would be easy to withdraw from.

Usually I answer, "What would I do in retirement?" Why would anyone make a decision to rush off to join some of the unfortunate folks who have become infirm? You know these valuable citizens do not enjoy being in poor health and living in some retirement community where bingo and shuffleboard are the games of choice! They will be quick to tell you that so long as an individual is still in good health, it pays to remain in the mainstream and to be active in a mix of activities involving family, old friends or professional associates.

Sometimes folks are ready to put older citizens out to pasture before they are ready. One prime example is 91-year-old Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a champion of the people of West Virginia. Press reports recently analyzed his signature and the decline in his writing was a signal for some to suggest it was time for him to retire.

You probably have experienced some changes in your abilities as you age, but hope your experience and wisdom are still of value to someone. That the senator is still as sharp as a tack was evidenced by his response to criticism of his signature. He said, "Maybe I should dictate." Staying active and healthy is important to each of us, including the senator. A shaky hand does not necessarily signal a call for the pasture.

If you will recall, Jimmy Carter's mother worked in the Peace Corps at an advanced age. Others with spunk and energy have followed her example, because it is well known that the Peace Corps encourages service by older citizens. It is true that only a small percentage of volunteers are older than 50. However, their contributions to people in the Third World have been deeply appreciated. Just like the greeters at Wal-Mart Stores, older volunteers are goodwill ambassadors, and their friendly faces have welcomed people everywhere. It is fun to be included among them.

It is true, some seniors enjoy catching up on their reading, visiting family and friends, and far away places. They learn to dance, play cards and take on new crafts. Nothing is wrong with this lifestyle, but others find their joy in their profession, the people they work with, and in the daily routine of life. We hope that your health is good, your experience valuable and someone gives you the opportunity to serve in spite of the fact that your signature may be written with a tremor!

The kind of retirement a person chooses is strictly a matter of choice.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.