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Working in old age: Eric Lubbock, 4th Baron Avebury, 84, Liberal Democrat peer and prominent human rights campaigner

February 13, 2013 2:44 PM
By Patrick Barkham in The Guardian
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

What is the attraction of working beyond retirement age?

Bits start to fall off like an old car. In the past 20 years I have had a quadruple bypass, lung cancer, a plastic aorta fitted and a multiple fracture of the left leg. I am not as physically able as I used to be. It's unrealistic to expect you to be as effective as you are in your 20s. The important thing is to still have your intellectual capabilities.

I am in the House of Lords every day except on Fridays, when we don't sit. I have a select committee every Wednesday on health, education and home affairs in the EU. I am also vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for child health and vaccine-preventable diseases and I'm secretary of the all-party group for Gypsies and Travellers. It's good to have a variety of different things to think about and I do a lot of things not necessarily in parliament, such as the Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, which seeks to prompt the Bangladeshi government to implement a peace accord with the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. I am a Buddhist and am patron of the Buddhist prison chaplaincy as well.

As I have got older I have become more and more keen on the idea of equality. The evidence shows that most of the ills of society - such as crime, mental illness and so on - are deeply correlated with inequality. I don't feel there is prejudice directed at me for my age and nor is there particular respect. People realise equality applies to age as it does to gender, race and everything else, and that is the way it should be.

You cannot currently retire from the House of Lords - you can only apply for a leave of absence. I think there should be that option for people to retire. I wouldn't retire, however. On my 80th birthday, I said I am never going to retire and I have stuck to that. It would have been a great disadvantage if I didn't have work. People who don't do anything after a certain age decline - the lack of mental stimulation has a bearing on your physical side too.