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I should have retrained

I should have retrained

| Text: Marie Preisler

60-year-old Lone Høgh has been on painkillers for years in order to handle her physically demanding agricultural job. She has now retired in order to enjoy her time with her husband and dog.

Lone Høgh does things properly and never gives up when faced with something difficult. So without complaining, she has been lifting heavy bags, large bales and pigs in her agriculture job since she was 16. 

“I grew up in the city but was interested in horses. So I became a student of agriculture at a farm that was near both the forest and the sea. It felt like coming home with all that light and fresh air. It was a pig far, and I have been working with that since.”

For many years she worked on a farm with 550 sows that produce around 18,000 piglets a year. One of her jobs was to vaccinate them all, which meant a lot of lifting and back twisting. She has also been cleaning out pigsties with a high-pressure washer, which is particularly tough on the arms and shoulders. She was also under constant time pressure, as a strained economic situation in the agriculture sector means there are not enough workers to perform all the tasks, she says.

The physically demanding work has left her with clear physical marks.

“I have osteochondrosis and cannot use my back properly. I have had several collapsed disks. For many years I had to use painkillers in order to get through the day, and I was in such pain that I couldn’t go for a walk in my spare time,” says Lone Høgh.

Able to walk again

This summer she faced the consequences of her many physical ailments and quit her job in order to spend time with her husband Peder. He retired from his job as a police officer a couple of years ago. Lone Høgh will have to wait six and a half years before she gets her state pension. 

And even though she has been working for 44 years she will probably not qualify for the government’s new early retirement scheme because she worked freelance during some periods. So she chose to stop working without a state pension. She will draw on her own private pension until she reaches the state pensionable age. 

“I realised that working until 67 and getting the state pension would mean there would be little left of me. So I have chosen to stop working now in order to get a few good years together with my husband while my body still works.”

She soon realised this was the right decision for her body.

“I no longer need to take painkillers, I walk 70 kilometres a week and have been on a walking holiday with my daughter this summer. I thought I’d never be able to do that again.”

Despite her demanding job, Lone Høgh has always prioritised an active lifestyle. She is a keen gardener and is active in voluntary organisations. That is why the transition from working life has not felt difficult, she says.

“I have seen others retire and disappear because they suddenly have nothing to do. I have always enjoyed everything life has to offer, even though my body ached.”

Early retirement is fair

With the benefit of hindsight, Lone Høgh wishes she had not stayed in agriculture for so many years. If she could have her time again, she would have retrained when she was in her 40s and her body really started aching. 

“It annoys me that I didn’t retrain at that time. It would have saved me from much physical suffering. I could have chosen an education allowing me to work outside and with gardening, which is my great passion. But back then, I did not imagine that my hobby could perhaps also be a job.”

Lone Høgh thinks it is totally reasonable that the government want to offer an early state retirement for people with a long working life.

“I cannot benefit from this myself as I have chosen to quit work at 60. But I do think it is fair to introduce an early retirement for people like me, who started working at a young age. It is not fair that we should retire as late as people who studied and perhaps did not start working until they were nearly 30.”

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