From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli – 19 September
Finally, it seems our labour force has come to the belated realisation that, when you turn sixty, your brain does not, by osmosis, atrophy; and you are still capable of performing some quite demanding, even difficult, tasks.
WE live in an absurdly, youth-oriented society. In the dark ages, married women were forced to retire from so many professions, including teaching. Fortunately, I was taught English by a most brilliant grammarian; however, once she was married she had to train as a Home Science teacher. It was a well-known fact: a wedding ring rendered women intellectually incapable, and female teachers were no longer able to recognise the difference between a noun and verb. Cooking was deemed the most her feeble brain could manage now that she was married! Her teacher husband, who probably spent most of the day in class thinking about getting home and getting his leg over, again, did not suffer the same fate – the male brain being so much more capable than that of the female. I am still in touch with Miss Main, and I never hesitate to check a contentious point of syntax with her. She has said, several times, in reply to my plea for assistance: “I knew you weren’t paying attention that afternoon!”
I cannot think of anything worse than retirement. When I see all those ‘happy retirement’ cards on display I want push-over the stand and burn the lot. I do not understand why governments of both persuasions are determined to force people to retire 65, or is it now 67? Why, is the question? Your years of greatest influence lie between 40 and 75. It takes 20 years of working at your profession to understand what it’s all about. That certainly applies to the theatre. For the early years I flew by the seat of my pants – managing with good luck and a pinch of judgement. I remember, clearly, the moment it all fell into place. These days I achieve the same results in half the time. I have an abiding aversion to the appalling television commercial: “If you’re over 55 and retired?” Who retires at 55? Certainly not anyone I know. Now, I am doing work for which, 40-years ago, I had neither the wit nor the wisdom. Nothing replaces experience. I am, for the most part, a lateral thinker. Solving technical theatrical problems has always come easily. Age has not diminished my capacity. Quite the contrary. I am even more capable and less inclined to be stumped by a problem. I have seen it all so many times before.
In Queensland, a bored 70-year old retiree joined the company staff and implemented a protocol which, annually, saved the company thousands of dollars. A former systems analyst, he recognised the procedural anomaly and had a cash-saving arrangement up-and-running in weeks – to their surprise!
Artistic director, John Sumner, founder of the Melbourne Theatre Company under the auspices of the University of Melbourne, was forced to retire at the age of 65. John was at his zenith with at least another 20 years of good service. What we lost as a consequence of ridiculous mandatory retirement is immeasurable.
I have news for all those 30-somethings out there who think they invented everything, including sex; you didn’t! As a friend of mine said to his teenage daughter, “Don’t imagine you’re pulling the wool over my eyes. All the things you’re thinking about, I’ve already done!”
The baby boomer generation is the most extraordinary. When we started our working lives the internet, the mobile telephone, ISD and STD telephone systems, computers, fax machines, jet engines, space exploration, and much of the cutting-edge technology which we take for granted, did not exist. So we invented it!
Roland can be heard every Monday morning – 10.30 – on radio 3BA and you can contact him via [email protected].