Why am I being retired? Why do we still use 65 as retirement age?

Published by rudy Date posted on May 1, 2011


Editor’s Note: The author is a UP political science professor, a former president of the National Defense College of the Philippines and most sought-after commentarist on current events, particularly concerning military affairs.

I AM SO many weeks from mandatory retirement from the University of the Philippines (UP), where I have taught since 1967. That adds up to 44 years of passionate teaching and research and thousands of students whose names and faces now escape me.

I have mixed feelings about being put to pasture by the university because I have reached the magic number of 65 calendar years. I have often stressed to my students that a number must have an empirical referent, a story, for it to have a meaning.

So, why 65 years? This was set as the retirement age by a guy named Otto Von Bismarck in 1889, when the average life expectancy was 37 years.

Now, 122 years hence, why do we still use 65 years as the benchmark to declare somebody as no longer a member of the active workforce?

Why am I being retired mandatorily when I still have the spring in my step as I walk from my university-subsidized housing on campus to my class in the Arts and Sciences building?

Why am I being retired when, after 44 years, I would have accumulated so much knowledge, skills and competencies both as a scholar and a professor, and am always passionately imbued with the mentoring mission to extend the same to my students?

Why am I being retired when my brain has not become suddenly fossilized and neither dementia nor another degenerative disease has compromised my critical faculties?


On the other hand, I have developed over four decades a level of empathy, a deep understanding, a “Verstehen,” of the tortuous phases that anxious students go through as they attempt to get a handle on the thesis or dissertation that they want to write.

I no longer am the “terror” professor witnessed by the likes of Representatives Eduardo Zialcita and Rodolfo Antonino, Sen. Francis Escudero, Secretary Herminio Coloma, Communist Party of the Philippines top honcho Rafael Baylosis, and many, many, many others of the whole political spectrum from Left to Right.

I have certainly mellowed, and mellowed in a nice, happy way, as wine gets better through the years…

Indeed, the whole world, except Africa, is aging. While we still have a fairly young population with a population growth rate of 2.67 percent, the number of our elderly (those 60 and above, per the United Nations’ definition) has increased to 7 million (per the Department of Social Welfare and Development). I myself have often wondered why, in my studies on population aging, I am seeing three numbers of elderly from the DSWD, the National Statistics Office and our own UP Population Institute. How can we have three numbers of elderly when we are already warm bodies and you only need to count us? This planning on three notional numbers certainly has consequences for planning for the elderly, especially when we talk of the senior citizen’s privileges (like the 20-percent discount, etc.), and especially when we balloon to 10-14 million (per the projection of the National Economic and Development Authority).

Finish the Sentence

But I digress. Begging your indulgence for a senior moment…

Among my age cohorts, we often play the game of Finish the Sentence.

For example, “You are elderly when …” And my predicate would be like “… when the first section you look at in the newspaper in the morning is the obituary section.”

Or “… when you rant at why the major malls have only one cubicle for the elderly marked with a wheelchair and why the key to that single cubicle is held by someone who usually cannot readily be found as the poor elderly tries his/her best to hold his/her bladder from bursting.”

Or “… when you rant at why, for heaven’s sake, the so-called wheelchair ramps are not flush to the street, as though wheelchairs have wings to levitate so they can overcome the hump.”

I am sure many of you have your own predicates…

National treasure

Seriously now, when you let go of a professor who has had so many years of scholarship, training, books written and countless articles published, you let go of a national treasure who, because there will be no more reason to wake up and dress up (as in “walang pinagbibihisan”) will slowly deteriorate, become a couch potato, watch interminable corny soap operas and old films, put on weight, get high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and die.

From a budget standpoint, will letting go of a professor with top rank and top salary find equivalent competencies and knowledge and skills in four new instructors?

Will letting go of that collective expertise be converted to spending on leisure and other retirement activities, or will it impoverish the labor force with the sudden withdrawal of so much brain power?

Will letting go of these 65-year-olds lead to more health expenditures, with the quick atrophy of faculties leading, in the short to medium term, to diseases borne out of boredom, loss of self esteem and “walang pinagbibihisan?”

And I have yet to address the pension system, a ticking time bomb both for the military and civilian bureaucracy, questions for our legislators, questions for our decision-makers, many of whom have been my students … Touche! –Clarita Carlos, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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