Ah, retirement! Before the 1950s it was something only the wealthy could afford to do. Everyone else needed an income, and most folks struggled to get by in the industrial economy as their faculties deteriorated. Back in the days before 401[k)s — let alone Social Security — older people faced the kind of pressures portrayed by filmmaker D.W. Griffith in his melodramatic 1911 silent film What Shall We Do With Our Old? It’s a sad tale of the setbacks endured by an elderly couple, the wife ailing, the husband tossed off the assembly line to make way for a younger worker.
The Age of Retirement was one of America’s most successful social reforms ever. But that era is over. A new vision of old age is emerging from the trauma of the credit crunch and the Great Recession: Forget retirement. Keep working, reports BusinessWeek.