Retirement is not a rest nor a choice for many | Letters

Dr Melanie Jones, Judith Diamond and Mark Chapman respond to an article about early retirement. Plus Caroline Feinstein on the challenge of finding work

Emma Beddington, how dare you (Retired early and wondering what to do? How about fighting for the rest of us?, 29 January). As a 64-year-old woman who’s had to retire early, with a meagre pension, no hope of state pension till I’m 66 and a very low income to show for all my years of work, I am also someone who has protested all my life. I started with the Winchester M3 protests, went on to attend the Trafalgar Square protest and survive rally in 1980, and attended many Rock Against Racism and Anti-Nazi League events in the early 80s. I was also at the 15 February 2003 anti-war protest.

After bypass surgery in 2008, my first public gig was in sub-zero temperatures at a protest in London about the attacks on Syria, when I was supposed to be in bed resting. Almost every day I sign a petition or contribute my voice to protest in some way. And I’ll also be volunteering and providing free childcare for my grandchildren. I am not alone in this by any means. Your article echoes the views of Tory Jeremy Hunt, which is disappointing.
Dr Melanie Jones
Brundall, Norfolk

• I guess I must be one of the “lucky bunch of 50-to-64-year-old unicorns cantering off into the sunset” caricatured by Emma Beddington. Except that I retired earlier than I had hoped, at 61, in 2021, having had long Covid for more than a year and struggling to work from home for three days a week. After 37 years of working in the public sector, I would have gladly swapped my virtual leaving do for Emma’s imagined gathering with a Colin the Caterpillar cake a couple of years later. But, over 18 months on, I’m still navigating life with the debilitating condition. People who have retired or are now retiring aged between 50 and 64 are, of course, individuals whose circumstances differ widely. To lump us all together is ageist and divisive.
Judith Diamond
London

• Emma Beddington writes that early retirement is “a lifestyle choice” for fiftysomethings. Not so for me, or at least not in the hedonistic sense implied. In 2014, and aged 56, I left a classroom teaching job that I had enjoyed for nearly 30 years, to look after three ailing relatives. In 2023, the last of these relatives carries on at a very advanced age, blind, immobile and unable to function without full time live-in assistance. That’s me. Given the parlous and hideously expensive state of nursing care, some of the missing 565,000 “economically actives” might be similarly engaged.
Mark Chapman
Burgess Hill, West Sussex

• Dorothy Byrne brings attention to the pernicious discrimination against a large group of unemployed people who want to work, but are not given the opportunities to do so (Sorry, Jeremy Hunt, we older people want to work. But bosses just don’t want us to, 1 February). At one point in the early 2010s, women over 50 bore the brunt of huge job losses as a result of the austerity policies of Messrs Cameron and Osborne.

I was then of menopausal age, and lost my employment when I was being treated for stage three cancer. Try getting back into paid work after you’ve been forced to take time out due to ill health. I spent over five years throwing myself at jobs that were well within my capabilities. Eventually, wretched and with no faith left in myself, I decided I had to give up. It is now 12 years since I had cancer, but aged 63 and despite still wanting a fulfilling professional life, I can’t subject myself again to the humiliation of throwing myself at employers, only to be rejected.
Caroline Feinstein
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

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