Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Royalty or not, is there a right time to retire?

Charles as busy as ever at age 65

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With an Idle No More banner as a backdrop, Prince Charles receives full military honours before leaving Winnipeg Wednesday.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

With an Idle No More banner as a backdrop, Prince Charles receives full military honours before leaving Winnipeg Wednesday. Photo Store

The last time I saw Prince Charles in person was on one of those endless summer days in the Canadian Arctic.

That was 40 years ago.

We were both in our mid 20s then, but those once-endless summers of our youth have since given way to a frost-topped autumn that is moving inexorably to a wintry end.

Yet, late Wednesday morning outside the Assiniboine Park Pavilion, there he was again with a spring in his 65-year-old step and charming a crowd of all ages. Still full of energy and enthusiasm after all those years and jet-lagged miles. Which prompted me to consider something I've been wondering about since turning 65, the once-traditional age of retirement. When will our generation really get old, and when should we retire? Or should we?

Actually, the person who really brought it to mind is Tom Denton, the executive director of Hospitality House. Last week, Denton and more than a dozen others had been awarded the Order of Manitoba, and in his story on the announcement, Free Press reporter Kevin Rollason described him as "a tireless champion for refugees arriving on our doorstep."

Tireless, yes, and seemingly ageless, too. How else to describe him given the daunting and exhausting nature of Denton's work liberating thousands of refugees over the years and settling them in Winnipeg. Especially, as I was suggesting, given his age.

"I'm two months short of my 80th birthday," Denton told Rollason, "but when I think of all of the people here or still to come, I know we still have 4,000 to get here; I plan to continue doing this work as long as I am able."

So it was on the day the honour was announced, I dropped by his office in what was formerly a small Main Street church to congratulate him in person. Of course he was there.

It was well after 9 p.m., the same day I would chance to see Denton again at Richardson International Airport.

He and a 27-year-old former refugee named Abdi Gelle Abdi were there to meet a family of Somali refugees; a young mother, father, and their five children, all under six.

Denton looked and was as advertised -- tireless. In fact, he had been there three hours earlier, welcoming another refugee family of four. Although, while he waited, he had dozed off in an airport chair.

As Denton told Rollason last week: "I'm still doing it and I have no intention of not doing it."

Denton seems to be speaking for many in my generation and even his own. Age may be the last frontier of discrimination, and at least some of us boomers are in a conquering mood. Whether extending retirement beyond 65, or continuing to work after "retiring," the trend is for Canadians to continue being employed well into their senior years.

Two years ago, Sun Life Financial found less than a third of Canadians they surveyed planned to be retired by 66.

Some simply don't want to retire.

Many can't afford to retire.

Then there's the federal government's need to push back its pension plan because it can't afford our retirements, either.

Then there's the law.

The once absolute retirement age, 65, is now obsolete in most jobs.

For Brian Grosman, a partner in the Toronto law firm of Levitt & Grosman, that new reality has created a specialty -- how to deal with an aging workforce, both from an employer and an employee perspective.

He calls this new world of employment and labour law "very tricky."

As Grosman suggested, trial judges tend to be of a certain age themselves. Hence they can identify with people who are terminated because they're viewed as being in the way or because they're considered too old to do their job. But it's not just age discrimination and new labour law that makes it all so "tricky," or even the employers' imperative to create turnover and cut costs and the employees' need to keep working. It's the youthful, even vital nature of people once thought of and cast off as old.

"The new 65," says Grosman, "is maybe 45."

Grosman himself is "over 60" -- he won't say how much over -- and obviously he still has passion and purpose.

Which is really the only potion I know for having a youthful attitude.

Witness broadcaster Barbara Walters, who has just retired at age 84, but still plans to work. Or CBC's Peter Mansbridge, who's almost 66. How about rockers we pay big bucks to watch -- soon-to-be-65 Bruce Springsteen, soon-to-be-71 Mick Jagger, and soon-to-be-72 Sir Paul McCartney.

Tireless and ageless, all.

Which brings us back to Prince Charles, a man who, at an age when most people were once forced to retire, is still waiting for his dream job.

But, we all know how his 88-year-old mother, the Queen, feels about retirement. The same as Tom Denton.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 22, 2014 A5

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