Should Retirees Work Free or for Peanuts?

Armen Hareyan's picture

An article in Parade, October, 31, 2004, "They're Recycling Their Brain Power" looked promising: A story about retired scientists in their 70s and 80s doing valuable work for a group called Waste Reduction Partners (WRP), funded mostly by the State of North Carolina. As volunteers they receive a small per diem, travel costs and "the sense that you're making a difference."


Without knowing anything more about what they do, is there something wrong here?

Yes, there is: The retired scientists are not being adequately compensated for their work. The "small per diem" they receive is obviously acceptable the scientists, but why is it that our society expects retirees to do for practically nothing, what un-retired consultants with similar expertise might charge $1,000 a day or more? The thinking seems to be that it's okay to exploit retirees because they are "just retirees" and they are "giving back."

What is "giving back" anyway? You "give back" when you have taken or borrowed what is not yours. Have WRP scientists "taken" from society by being on welfare or "taken" from taxpayer-supported services? Not likely. They've given all of their lives through their work and payment of taxes. What's to "give back?" They don't owe society a thing.

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