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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Albright: OK, No Spring Chicken But ...

This resident of a local chicken coop is still stylish, despite advancing years.

We often hear state leaders lamenting the so-called brain drain – meaning young people who move away - and the burden of caring for the Medicare crowd. Our demographics are a problem, they say, while credit agencies insist that in order to keep Vermont’s credit rating high, we need a bigger, younger population to spur economic growth.And while it’s true that an aging population presents challenges, I worry that people who use ageist rhetoric are discouraging – maybe even insulting – many mature would-be transplants who are working beyond the traditional retirement age.

I think it’s short sighted to collectively dismiss older people as unproductive. U.S. Labor Department statistics show that by 2026, nearly 22 percent of people 65 and older will be working, with those 75 and older experiencing the fastest growth rate. Not only are they – okay, we – continuing to hold down jobs, we also tend to be active in our communities.

I’ll admit I’m taking this ‘aging demographic’ label a little personally. My over-60 brain still works, and not just on crossword puzzles. It’s still employed, and it’s smart enough to do the math: if you wait until you’re 70 to start collecting social security, you maximize your monthly payments.

And here’s the thing. Despite a challenging climate and high property taxes, Vermont is a good place for what a friend of mine calls his ‘retirement glide plan.’ We’ve got friendly small towns, gorgeous scenery, a reasonable cost of living, and colleges that serve their communities.

So I think our policy makers should be warmly inviting older people who want to jump off the corporate merry-go-round and re-establish a balance between life and work, to bring their business savvy and the money they’ve accrued over a lifetime to start small enterprises here.

Oh, and let me just add that the men - and they are mostly men - who run the credit rating agencies are themselves no spring chickens. But if they left their pressure-cooker jobs and relocated to Vermont to make craft beer or artisan cheese or, even better, invest in a pair of Northeast Kingdom ski resorts, we wouldn’t call it a brain drain. We’d call it a brain gain.