Most countries adopt a legal retirement age, i.e. an age before which workers are not allowed to percieve old age benefits. In some cases, retirement is mandatory at that age; in most, however, reaching the age limit simply means being allowed to retire, with the option, if so desired and under agreement with the employer, to do it later.
As an exception to this basic rule, many systems offer, under specified conditions, early retirement opportunities.
When the retirement age is open to choice (within limits), an important aspect is whether an actuarial correction is introduced (i.e. whether those who have decided to retire earlier receive, ceteris paribus, lower yearly benefits).
Looking at different countries we therefore find a whole spectrum of rules. Economists can and should assess the impact of these different arrangements on individual choices and on the general working of the economy, and perhaps they should also help in finding optimal rules.
Starting from these general points, the conference focused on country-specific patterns of retirement and address policy issues relevant at the European level.