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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Old institutions and ideas in our lives dying out...

It seems that all around us things that we (or at least I) grew up with and thought would last are withering away, losing influence or in some cases disappearing altogether. This includes institutions like the U.S. Postal Service and the original Big-3s of our youth – GM, Ford and Chrysler in the automotive world and CBS, NBC and ABC – the original Big-3 networks – in the entertainment world. Certainly Borders bookstores come to mind around here, as does the Summit Place Mall in Pontiac and home delivery of newspapers seven days a week.

Some would say that this is just progress – a natural progression of things in life – as new technologies and new lifestyles lead people to different products and different ways of spending their time. I guess that is true. Still one can miss some of the things that are gone or no longer hold sway in our lives. Do I miss the personal interaction with the teller inside the bank to stop using the drive-up or the ATM? I guess not and I seldom think about it any more.

One quaint idea from our past that I miss somewhat is the concept of retirement. I grew up in the era where you worked hard for 30-40-50 years and then you got to retire. They gave you the ceremonial gold watch, had a retirement party for you and off you went into your so-called Golden Years with your pension in hand; your comfort and security guaranteed by the company retirement plan.

Well that sure didn’t work out the way I thought it might. The companies that I worked for most of my career shifted everyone to a lump sum payout retirement plan and then ended up laying most off anyway when they were bought out by other companies that had no retirement plans either. So, now it appears that I’m in a fairly large group of somewhat older Americans for whom the concept of ever retiring is, as Ernie Harwell might have put it, “Long Gone.”

That’s a shame for several reasons, not the lease of which is that older workers having to hang on to their jobs longer means less opportunity for younger workers who are just starting out. It has also impacted the housing industry, with fewer people making the shift to retirement homes and the travel industry as fewer older people have the money to travel as they thought they might when they retired.

I suppose that the good news in all of this is that many older workers didn’t want to retire in the first place. It turned out to be really boring for many and they often returned to the workforce in some capacity after having burned themselves out on endless rounds of golf or on trips to places that didn’t turn out to all that great. I have often heard from really old people who are being interviewed about the secret to their long lives that continuing to work every day was what kept them going. I’ll have to admit that I’d be bored silly if I didn’t have the jobs that keep me occupied right now.

So, I guess I’ll just roll with the punches, jump on as many of the new technology bandwagons as I can and shift my focus from the old media to the new while I continue to get up and go to work everyday. The alternative, it seems to me, is much worse. I guess as life goes on one might be best served by remembering a recent popular motto attributed to the Navy Seals - Deal With It.

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