Italy is a place where retirement is welcome

But it is rare for [Italians] to view work as anything but a necessary evil. A survey commissioned by the weekly newsmagazine Panorama in 2006 found that two-thirds of Italians would give up their work if they could be guaranteed the relatively modest sum of € 5,000 a month.

In the same way, retirement is usually seen as entirely positive. There seems to be none of the fretting that goes on in Anglo-Saxon societies about how to cope with a loss of identity.

I have known plenty of Italians who have gone into retirement, and sometimes I have bumped into them in the street or when they have made a return visit to the offices where they worked. Not once have I heard any of them express anything but unmitigated delight at no longer having a job.

Silvio Berlusconi was still prime minister at the age of seventy-five. Mario Monti, who replaced Berlusconi in 2011, took over as head of government when he was sixty-eight. His cabinet, which was brought in as a new broom that would sweep clean and introduce wide-ranging reforms, had the highest average age of any in the European Union at the time.

And after the election that followed the fall of Monti’s government, the new parliament reelected a president, Giorgio Napolitano, who was eighty-seven. For truly untrammeled “gray power,” however, nothing compares with the universities. A study published as Monti and his ministers were settling in behind their highly polished desks found that the average age of Italy’s professors was sixty-three and that many were still clinging to their positions and the vast patronage they were afforded when they were well over seventy. Their average age was the highest anywhere.

It means that young Italians are not just imbibing the theories and attitudes of the previous generation, which is natural, but of the one before that, and in extreme cases even the one before that. The appointment of two younger prime ministers, Enrico Letta in 2013 and Matteo Renzi in 2014, has led to a rejuvenation at the highest levels of government. Renzi became Italy’s youngest ever prime minister at the age of just thirty-nine. And he set about naming a cabinet that included a party colleague who was only thirty-three at the time of her appointment.

But it remained to be seen whether the process would extend to other areas of Italian life, and particularly higher education. The role played by the elderly in the formation of Italy’s future elite continued to represent a formidable obstacle to innovation, modernization and the rethinking of established ideas. This may have some link to the enthusiasm with which so many young Italians embrace the culture of their parents. Perhaps the most striking example of this is to be found in the area of rock music: currently the ages of three of the most popular singers are fifty-two, fifty-six and sixty. Aging rock stars have kept going.


Hooper, John. The Italians, Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

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