I did that web thing where you read effbee, and follow a link, and then follow a link, and found myself reading a PBS article "Colleges and Universities See Graying Workforce Holding onto Coveted Positions."
In the article, a small number of faculty members from pretty elite schools on the east coast are interviewed, including Claire Potter of Tenured Radical, about faculty members working into their 70s and problems with that for younger scholars and scholarly work.
In my small experience here, things look very different. I see most of my colleagues balance the financial realities of starting late after years of grad school, low pay, but a (so far) decent retirement with the difficulties of the teaching load, constant demands for more administrivia, health problems, and rough weather; most that I know seem to retire in their mid-60s, which, for this generation means they can get Social Security and Medicare to cover health insurance.
And then, in the press, on one side we have young folks saying that we're staying too long, and on the other side, the government saying we won't have access to Social Security until later, so we need to work longer. The Affordable Care Act MAY make earlier retirement plausible for some folks.
I'm reminded of Hal wanting that crown, being impatient for it, though I don't think of my job as a crown, exactly. When haven't younger folks wanted to shove out the older generation for being old and greedy, and take over themselves? I'm pretty sure my generation was plenty impatient.
The difference, I think, is that for people in the US, since, say, the 40s, we've had this idea that there should be a retirement, a period of relative leisure to grow old, even for people who aren't among the very wealthy. But I think historically that's a pretty rare thing. Most people through history have struggled to eat and keep reasonably sheltered until they died. They didn't retire and leave the land lease to their kids because they needed to keep working as long as they could, and when they couldn't, well, that was pretty soon going to be it.
I wonder if my impression that faculty at schools with higher teaching loads tend to retire a bit earlier is accurate?
I wonder if there's also a regional aspect to that? Are there incentives to work longer if you're in a big city? (I know that's a whole complex can of worms; most faculty members here come from at least moderately privileged backgrounds, and a fair percentage from larger cities, and many of those folks move away when they retire.)
One of my department colleagues and I, trying to figure out if we're likely to ask for another TT search in the near future, and knowing that out budget makes it unlikely that we'll get a new line or get to search for one of the lines we had that was put on hold, ran down roughly our TT faculty ages a bit back. I'm probably not 100% accurate in my count (or in estimating some peoples' ages), but here goes.
60s - 3 all men
50s - 9, 8 women, 1 man
40s - 10, 5 women, 5 men
30s - 6, 3 women, 3 men
20s - 2, 1 woman, 1 man
Of the 40s and 50s groups, a fair number were hired during their 40s, a couple quite recently. (That is, we've hired people who were in their 40s. They're new TT faculty at 40+)
So, at least in my small department, we have a reasonable balance, I think.