I was sold the story that as we age we can take it easier, slow down a bit, prepare to retire, that with age comes a certain level of respect and deference, that our wisdom will be valued more than frantic activity and long work hours. I remember my great-aunt who worked for an insurance firm being the highest paid of the staff but as she cruised through her 60’s to 75 when she retired, she chose her hours and responsibilities, received more than 5 weeks of paid vacation a year, and was paid substantial bonuses. She had a place of honor for her many years of service. Now it seems that the longer you last, the more you are expected to do, the longer hours you have to work. The older employees — those 55 and up — have their benefits, particularly insurance, chopped while being expected to do more. Rarely does anyone get more than 2 weeks vacation anymore — no matter how many hours you work per week or your years of service. I am an independent contractor so I have no benefits but I have seen clients who have increased their profits three or four times over the last few years balk if I increase my rates just slightly. They also grouse about any time I take for vacation even though they don’t compensate me. But, their employees have it worse. When I entered the full time employment market many years ago, I had paid health, life and disability insurance, increasing paid vacation up to 5 weeks per year, annual bonuses, profit sharing and pension plans. Few companies even offer health insurance now — forget about life or disability. Two weeks paid vacation is the max. No pension or profit sharing plans and many never give bonuses. Yet today’s employees are working longer hours than we did back then and the job demands and pressures are so much worse. This is why the middle class is dying — literally and figuratively. I see employees, particularly women, in their 60’s, like me, in professional offices who are expected to work 50+ hours a week and get only 2 weeks off per year. Professional offices used to treat their employees, especially the older ones, much better. The younger employees carried the load. Not anymore. The ones closest to retirement are the ones bearing the biggest work burdens, never allowed to rest, expected to do more than their share.