Going Harder to Go Longer



I’ve been noticing something lately; something that’s very disappointing to realize. You may agree. It really hit home for me today. As I attended my physical therapy session, I noticed so many more ‘mature’ people in the facility, who were trying to work on whatever body part was ailing them. This isn’t the first time I witnessed this, but for some reason today, it stood out to me like a sore thumb.

I observed one man who was walking laps around the track, but was carrying an oxygen tank with him which was attached to clear tubing that ran up to his nose. I saw another person, a woman, who walked so slowly, I didn’t see how she would ever get to her destination. The therapist assigned to her had to dramatically slow his pace just so that this poor woman would not be left in his ‘youthful’ dust. I couldn’t imagine what exercise he would possibly recommend for her. Another man had so much pain, that the exercise he was performing on a machine, had to be interrupted several times as he grimaced in discomfort. He walked with a distinct limp and even that looked painful. My heart went out to these people. I don’t know what their individual circumstances were for being there, but they all seemed to be there for a common cause; to try and get better and to be better.

Some could have been there because they just wanted to have more mobility and get around better. Others could have been there because they need to keep working, even though they have reached their respective ‘retirement’ age(s), but sadly, that means little to nothing in many instances. It was beyond sobering to really pay attention to what I was seeing around me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the run-of-the mill day to day activities while seeing things, but proceeding on, never really stopping to pay attention to what is really going on. Some realities are truly shameful; which leads me to the reason for this post.

I guess I’m disheartened, disappointed, and downright disgusted at the way the elderly seem to  have been demoted to the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the way they are treated. They’ve worked most of their lives or a great deal of their lives, helping to build this country and this is what things have come to; working well beyond the retirement age. As a matter of fact, what is the retirement age now? The age requirement seems to keep getting bumped further and further out, forcing many to ‘go harder to go longer’. Is ‘retirement’ even something to revere and look forward to in today’s world?

The nation’s economy has become so dismal that working at one place for several years and retiring from that place, has almost become a non-existent occurrence. A person can have several jobs throughout his/her working life. The high degree of job loss compounded with the difficulty in finding new employment, has made anticipation of retirement almost seem like a thing of the past. If you can’t keep a job due to high turnover and company layoffs, and you can’t find another job, how are you ever supposed to rebuild in order to have something to put aside in lieu of any kind of decent retirement? Can retirement ever again be a coveted event, as it once was, that can be revered and looked forward to with anticipation in the midst of these chaotic economic times?

What about the elderly people who find themselves laid off after having been employed with a company for years and years, only to then experience a lengthy period of time before they are able to secure employment? Then there’s the whole issue of ‘age’ discrimination that this sector of the population has to deal with.  Unfortunately, as a result of these circumstances, people sometimes have to tap into their retirement savings, take out 401k loans, etc. to help them get through those dark periods of unemployment. Then, once they find employment, the pay is often insulting; much less than what they were making prior to their unemployed status. So, now you have a person that is used to making x amount of money, but now finds themselves in a situation where the pay is considerably less. How would that person ever be able to pay their bills, not to mention having enough money to sock away and/or rebuild?

It’s interesting how the price of everything has been going up, seemingly 10-fold. But where are the cost of living increases to help people keep up with those rising costs? On the flip side, when a person secures new employment at a considerably lower rate, why is there nothing in place to ensure that people are not forced to accept meager wages to support their former lifestyles and high cost of living expenses? The expenses don’t disappear and they certainly don’t get reduced in light of a person experiencing an unexpected hardship. As a result, more and more people are working 2 and 3 jobs to try and make ends meet. Sometimes, that’s still not enough! It seems the nation has created a situation that has forced its people into a rat race that can never be won, unless something is done to stop this vicious cycle.

It’s horrible to think that some of the elderly population is faced with working well beyond a reasonable retirement age. Working multiple jobs is not a viable option for many of these valuable contributors to community and society and frankly, it shouldn’t be. Why should this population of seasoned individuals have to even consider working more than one job? If they could retire at their designated age, further employment would not even be an issue, unless he/she just wanted to work to keep busy and occupied. And what will happen if health becomes an issue and a person finds themselves in a predicament where he/she can’t work at all? I can honestly say, on one hand, I wasn’t ecstatic to see all of these ‘mature’ individuals trying to get on top of their body’s functionality because I sensed that a lot of these instances were out of necessity; for sheer survival. But I was happy that they were at least there, trying to make the effort. At the end of the day, do they really have a choice?


By Sylvia Porter-Hall


July 2020

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