How a newspaper headline summed up the plight of the would-be pensioners.
John McNamee Reports
My attention was drawn recently to an article in a leading newspaper about baby boomers becoming eligible for the age pension (God help them!).
But just let’s examine the headline on this story: “First Flush of Baby Boomers Line Up For Pensions”.
Get it? First flush? What does that invoke?
Yes, flush, ruddy, reddish, panting, breathy, choleric… all those and of course menopausal…..clever isn’t it.
Menopausal…..what a damming word.
Flushed with menopausal symptoms , a person’s genetic usefulness in life has withered on the vine.
The image is immediately summoned of a bunch of feeble old folk with the rosy cheeks of early onset biological decay tottering around clamouring that they be fed by the heartless usurers of the State coffers.
Let’s look at the next deck of the headline: “Line Up”.
There it is..what does “line up” convey?
Shuffling groups of people in ant-like formations, hands out, queuing up for a handout doesn’t it?
What chance has the senior citizenry of receiving a fair go when even newspaper headlines drip in this sort of sarcastic emotiveness. A smarmy clever dick allusion full of the disrespect of the young to their elders.
Being called baby boomers or grey nomads, we’ve got used to, and ok, we really don’t mind the terms at all. After all there wasn’t much we could do about being baby boomers as this was exclusively in the realm of our biological parents.
We cop “grey nomads” as this carries a sort of devil-may-care spirit of adventure as we zap around the country in our customised Winnebagoes and superannuation-funded Harley Davidsons. (Lucky for some).
But what is the worst implication in that seemingly innocuous headline “First Flush of Baby Boomers Line Up For Pensions”?
Maybe I’m being ultrasensitive but it conveys to me the impression that I and my sexagenarian peers have been impatiently waiting for the day when we become eligible to receive a “well deserved” stipend from a State that we have been supporting throughout our long working lives.
It seems to infer that we just couldn’t wait to tear through our forties and fifties and get into that sixties zone where we faced the wonderful prospect of having to register for the Age Pension!
Doesn’t make sense does it?
But yet that seems to be the attitude of so many in society who read scare stories about hordes of bludging old bastards forming endless queues at the Centrelink offices around the country sucking dry the precious financial resources of our nation.
Sorry but we can’t help getting old and those of us who have reached pension age in this exciting new decade have been spawned by post-World War I and II generations who have instilled in us the steely work and moral ethic that made the 1950s and 1960s such wonderfully halcyon years for the lucky ones among us.
Generally we come from a fighting generation of solid immigrant stock who regard the necessity of having to “line up” for the age pension a shattering blow to our personal pride and self-esteem.
If you have any illusions about rocking up to a Centrelink office and registering for the age pension, then you are soon quickly and ruthlessly disillusioned.
The endless paperwork, the often indifferent staff, the relentless questioning of one’s financial background and resources…it’s a nightmare.
It’s not our generation which dessicates the welfare system…huge proportions of people living in the outer and depressed inner suburbs in every major city seem to exist on an endless stream of welfare payments they claim for unemployment, supposed disabilities, (many such claimants are actually smoking outside the Centrelink offices), single mums popping out malnourished and bizarrely named children as their morbidly obese mothers did before them.
Spare me the hypocrisy and ignorance of the callous youth who grew up in an age where older citizens are regarded as spongers and parasites who have somehow managed to deplete the wealth of the country by grimly accepting the inevitable fact of life that they may need to receive financial help in their dotage.
But getting back to the original article over which the inflammatory headline which started this diatribe appeared
According to a firm called Mercer Consulting who have made a study of the matter and who were extensively quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald article, more than 107,000 baby boomer women (those born from 1946) will reach the female pension age of 64 this year.
A year later, 100,000 baby boomer men will reach 65 and a further 120,000 women will reach pension age.
There are indications that by the middle of the century one in four Australians will be 65 or older, about double the present 13 per cent. The 85 and overs are predicted to triple to five per cent.
It is these figures, according to the article, which has prompted the upcoming Henry review to consider recommending that the superannuation preservation age be gradually raised to 67 meaning more hardship for those forced to eke out their part-time incomes and investments for a longer period of time.
As most of those who have tried will avow, to claim the full age pension you have to be virtually stony broke with a spouse equally as penniless and with just enough funds to keep a roof over your head.
No, we’re not “flushed” either with funds or with the dreaded procreative meltdown and to say we’ll be “lining up” to get the pension is a bit like saying the condemned souls were queuing up at the front portals of Hell itself.