Sarah Sands: Retirement at 80, a novel at 90... We can take our time

Share
Related Topics

The generations of Windsors who emerged stiffly in wintry clothes at the end of their austerity cruise in the Western Isles last week were regarded as quaint, but the Royal Family is evidently a model for the future. There is a doughty matriarch of 84, working full time and supporting many dependants; a son kept out of a job because there is no longer a retirement age to create a vacancy; anxiety about members of the extended family who are on benefits, since taxpayers' tolerance of subsidy is perilously low; a young prince who keeps trying to push back his wedding day because the ratio of 27 years being single to 72 years or so of married life is hard to swallow.

Most of the discussion around an increase in life expectancy has been about work and pensions. There's not enough in either our own or national pension pots to pay for extended retirement, so we're going to have to work longer. Boris Johnson suggested last week that 80 was a more realistic retirement age. But there is a deeper question than how we shall make ends meet, which is whether we begin to live our lives differently once we expect to have an extra 20 years. Surely we must learn another rhythm, a longer perspective. There is suddenly a multitude of possibilities and fewer reasons for regret. Lost time can be regained.

For generations, women churned out six children by their twenties. Now, responding to a different time frame and in an age where many women regard their bodies as their own, they wait until their thirties. The tensions of working motherhood, rehearsed so attentively by the Daily Mail, will evaporate once women start entering the job market post children. Perhaps we shall achieve a work/life balance by spending 16 years raising children and then 50 years at work. When Yvette Cooper declined to run against her husband Ed Balls for the Labour leadership, she said that there would be plenty of time for her career once her children were older. Cooper was minister in charge of work and pensions, so she should know.

If we're going to live to Old Testament ages, we can have children, work and cougar as much as we like. Even Naomi Campbell would feel she had had enough me-time. We can eke out the landmarks of our life, or else repeat them or, most wondrously, believe that life has a third act. The great accomplishment we will all have to learn is patience.

I married relatively young. My elder son has done the same. There is thus an unlikely but theoretical possibility that I could be a grandmother before I am 50. Just now it feels rather like being a washing machine that has gone through all its cycles and finds its programme finished. What I should be looking to, of course, are unexplored horizons. In the new world, forties is late adolescence, 60 is middle age. Even in our nineties, we need not be skeletal and enfeebled: we can be P D James.

We can learn that the pleasures of the young do not fade, so much as become affordable, particularly if we go on working. I once attended a brain-storming session to create businesses for new consumers. The idea that scored highest in research was beauty treatments for women over 70. They were being offered stairlifts and hearing aids. They wanted spas. Older people are eager for the Open University, computer skills, cookery tourism, gap-year volunteering. The third act may be a reprise of the first, but who says we can't write in a crescendo?

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Queen Elizabeth II with members of the Order of Merit  

Either the Queen thinks that only one in 24 Britons are women, or her Order of Merit is appallingly backward

Janet Street-Porter
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...