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Pension age rise: 'We're over 70 but we won't give up working'


Thanks to new government rules, the age of retirement keeps getting more distant. But not everyone wants to put their feet up, as our reporter discovers when she meets four very active Northern Ireland pensioners.

The longer we live, the longer we will have to work, it was revealed last week. The state pension age has slowly been increasing over the years. Originally the age for retirement was traditionally 65 for men and 60 for women.

However, the last decade has seen that number both rise and equalise. At the moment, both men and women in their 40s can expect to retire at the age of 68.

For the younger generations, however, things are about to get harder. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced last week that in order to save £500bn over the next 50 years young people currently entering the workforce can expect to be there until the age of 70. This rise coincides with the rise in life expectancies.

During the 1950s men were expected to live until their late 60s with women's life expectancy around their early 70s.

Children born around 2010 can now expect to live until the age of 79 for boys and almost 83 for girls. The figures show that as of 2010 the average man will spend around 32% of his life drawing a pension. This new retirement age which will come into effect for those retiring in the 2050s aims to generate much-needed revenue as people live longer. Even today there are 300,000 people over the age of 70 still working in the UK.

Kerry McKittrick speaks to four people over 70 who are still hard at work, with no intention of retiring.

Diane Weiner (72) lives in Belfast. She works in Gaby childrenswear, a business she helped to found. She says:

The name of the shop came from my father who was Gabriel. My niece, who has taken over the business, is also called Gabrielle after him and she now gets Gaby.

I was in business with my parents since the late '50s but we started Gaby in the early '60s. It's always been more or less where it is now -- we were bombed a few times during the Troubles and when CastleCourt came they rebuilt the street but we're more or less in the same spot. We're also the oldest business in the street.

I used to run the business with my sister Thelma but Gabrielle and her husband Martin took the business over about seven years ago. Gabrielle had worked in it for years anyway. There was never an option for me not to be involved with it. I couldn't have contemplated that. They were more than happy for me to remain involved although I didn't anticipate I would be working as much as I do now.

I really enjoy working. Mentally it's good and I'm very fortunate in that I have no health problems. I love working with the younger staff -- they keep me in touch with the world.

Our customers go back generations. We have people who first came in to buy for their children and now they're coming to buy for their great-grandchildren and I've served them each time. We really have a relationship with our customers, both the old and the new.

I describe myself as a working pensioner. A lot of my friends ask me why I don't cut down my hours at least. My family would never put me in the position that I couldn't cut down if I wanted to, but it's my choice to be there. I don't have any plans for cutting back. All I know is I'm able to do it and enjoy it. I've been here this long it would be difficult for me to switch off.

I do have a social life. I enjoy socialising. I have my family and I'm involved in other things like creative writing classes.

I don't think people should have to work into their 70s. It's different when it's your own business and you've watched it grow. If you work for a company and have put your life into something else then you deserve to enjoy your retirement. I don't think people should be forced to work. It's wonderful for me as I enjoy it but that's my choice."

John Terrington (75) who works for B&Q in Belfast, lives in Glengormley with his wife Liz and they have four grown-up sons. He says:

I left school at the age of 14 and went straight into engineering jobs until I was 60 and the plant closed down and I was made redundant.

I didn't want to retire at that point — I'm still very fit and healthy. I was offered a couple of engineering jobs but they involved shift work and I thought at that stage it would be too much.

I was out of work for about six months before I started working for B&Q.

I started at 32 hours a week but then B&Q said I could reduce that to 20 hours now. The hours suit me well. I really enjoy the work. You meet nice people and it does keep you active.

B&Q give you quite a lot of training so I've been sent on courses for things like computing to keep up to date. That in itself is a plus.

While I'm fit and able my wife is quite content for me to work and I'm planning to keep going for as long as I can.

I'm still healthy. The only reason I go to the doctor is to get a flu injection once a year.

It doesn't cross my mind to stop.

It's a good idea for people to keep working.

I think having something of interest to go out to every day has kept me agile and I don't see any reason why I should stop that.”

Ralph Adams (71) lives in Richhill with his wife Jean and they have two grown-up children. He works as guide for Armagh City and District Council at Palace Stables and The Navan Centre & Fort, Co Armagh. He says:

When I retired in my 50s I was principal of the Hart Memorial Primary School in Portadown. It was a job I loved but I felt exhausted by the amount of change there was.

After about six months I wrote an autobiography and family history which took around a year.

When I retired I didn't have any particular plans. I wanted to do something of worth even before I started doing paid jobs and I even did some volunteering for the RNIB.

In my early 60s I saw a job advertised for a living history interpretor at The Navan Centre. It's someone who becomes a particular character from history to give a first person interpretation.

We cover a lot of periods so I become a lot of different characters.

I have an interest in history and it was also an opportunity for real education -- I wouldn't be bogged down by paperwork or anything else.

I found I thoroughly enjoyed it and I remember saying early on that it was great to be paid for having fun. I still don't want to stop after 10 years.

Part of the job is performing and the other part is researching, so I'm continuously learning as I go along.

I originally worked for 20 hours a week but now it's 15, four mornings a week which is just right. It gives me time to spend at home and with the grandchildren.

I've always said I would work as long as I could continue to make a contribution. I'm not sure how long I'll do it for -- I'm not thinking beyond next year. As long as my health is good, they want me, and my wife can put up with it, then I will continue.

I would say, given the continued improvements in healthcare, the life expectancy will continue to rise and we will live longer and need to support ourselves.

The way I look at it is, to do nothing is one step closer to the grave anyway. Life is for living and for doing and it means when you do take your breaks you've earned them."

Sadie Jefferson (77) is a pharmacy assistant at Gordons Chemist in Portrush. She is a widow and has two grown-up children. She says:

I left school at 14 and started working for JGW Boggs, as it was back then, in 1951. I've never worked anywhere else. The chemist shop has always been in the same spot in the 62 years I've worked here. It did burn down in the 1960s but was rebuilt.

I just continue working because I like it. I worked full-time up to a few years ago. Now I'm down to one day a week and also provide extra cover when they need it. I love the people and the buzz of the place. I know a lot of customers who've been coming in for years.

I do quite a lot of fundraising for the Hospice here in Portrush. Gordons Chemist also support Breast Cancer Month in October so I make a special effort for them. Even though I was away for two weeks in October, I still managed to raise £1,160.

Most people like me being here so no-one tells me I shouldn't be working. I've never thought about stopping working so I haven't made any plans. Gordons have been very good and even gave me a long service award when I had been here for 60 years.

I think what age you should work to depends on the individual and their health. I'm so fortunate I've had good health up to now."


The show must go on: Stars still shining well into their 70s and beyond

Bruce Forsyth

At the ripe old age of 85 Bruce is still earning a crust presenting Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday nights -- for the Sunday results show however, he hands the reins over to co-star Tess Daly.

Clint Eastwood

He really has done it all, having been a Hollywood star as well as mayor of his home town. Clint has turned to directing and at the age of 82 is preparing to bring Jersey Boys to the big screen.

Anthony Hopkins

The Oscar-winning thespian is still going strong at 75. Following his most famous role as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, Englishman Anthony most recently played the famous director himself in the film Hitchock.

Shirley Maclaine

Hollywood darling Maclaine and sister of Warren Beatty has several books under her belt but aged 79, her acting career shows no signs of flagging with a star role in Downton Abbey.


From Belfast Telegraph