I saw this article on aging professors at the Chronicle of Higher Education. The core argument is that older professors are selfish--they harm students and they're "hogs"!!--if they do not retire. If you don't retire by 70, you are not "honorable."
Set aside the issue of using anecdotes while claiming universality (I have plenty of anecdotes about great and productive older professors). Or the unsubstantiated argument about harm. The real problem I have with this argument is that it assumes that either younger professors are unselfish or it is fine if they're selfish because they're less expensive and more energetic.
A dirty secret of mine is that while in my 20s I entered this profession selfishly. I discovered many years ago that I got tremendous personal enjoyment reading, writing, analyzing, etc. about Latin American politics. This blog shows that I still do. I think my passion for it comes out in class. But it's largely selfish. The decisions I make are often centered on me--how exciting is this opportunity? Will it help pay for my children to go to college? I work hard and I think I do a good job, but it's not out of selflessness.
When I hit 70 years of age I will have to decide about what's left of my future. I will make that decision with me and my family first and foremost in mind.
Professors approaching 70 who are still enamored with hanging out with students and colleagues, or even fretting about money, have an ethical obligation to step back and think seriously about quitting. If they do remain on the job, they should at least openly acknowledge they’re doing it mostly for themselves.
Curse those professors who love coming to work! I'm not even approaching 50 (well, OK, define "approach") and I openly acknowledge that I am doing this mostly for myself. I don't feel guilty about that.