Retirement Conundrum: Seniors Who Keep Working Are Healthier
All our lives, we’re told that one day we can retire and “live the good life.” With this carrot, formerly claimed by most at age 65, we put in our decades with an eye to the future.
Now a longitudinal National Health Interview Survey finds that those 65 and older who continue to work are healthier than their fully retired counterparts. A similar French study found those who retire later have a lower risk of developing dementia.
This is good news, since the exploding senior population, sometimes referred to as the silver tsunami, is projected to make up approximately 22 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2022.
Keeping Engagement High
Today, when we may have an entire generation’s worth of days to enjoy after age 65, retirement age is arbitrary. A lot has to do with how much we love what we do, how much we need the income, and how else we wish to spend our time.
With people engaged in encore careers that fulfill them on many levels, work, itself, is a tonic that helps keep people feeling purposeful and of use. Baby Boomers appear even more reluctant to retire in their mid-sixties than previous generations. Seeing as Paul McCartney scored his first number one album in 36 years at age 76, that’s understandable!
What’s intriguing is that older workers seem to be more psychologically engaged than their younger counterparts, perhaps because they’ve established a good work ethic over the decades — or simply want to ensure they hang on to their job as long as they want to keep it.
But if an older worker is ripe for change, possibilities beckon.
Jobs in Cool Places
Consider CoolWorks, which has been connecting people seeking meaningful and exciting work with employers looking for their energy, enthusiasm and knowledge since 1995.
From national parks to retreat centers, conservation centers to dude ranches, CoolWorks lists positions that may appeal to older workers seeking something a little different. They even have a category, Older and Bolder that states, “If you rest, you rust!”
For elders who feel called to contribute to the common good, volunteer opportunities abound, especially as they concern younger generations.
Founded the same year as CoolWorks, Experience Corps teams volunteer retirees with schools, where they assist in classrooms or after-school programs, tutor kids in math or reading, and dispense an ample dose of “grandparent love”.
The average age of a volunteer is 65, and no prior teaching experience is required. Life experience is what matters. And working as an Experience Corps volunteer counts as being “un-retired”!
Camaraderie and Chutzpah Keep Women Working Longer
For many people, the seventh and eighth decades of life are a work renaissance, as a recent New York Times story makes clear. And while older adults, particularly women, do need the money, many members of this seasoned, savvy cohort are having “way too much fun” to retire.
Consider Laura, 71, who’s on the verge of her fourth career. She was a technology pioneer in the 1960s, and after thirty years in the field, made a 180-degree pivot to run a retreat center. At 62, she took the Waldorf teacher training and became certified as a Waldorf teacher. She’s thinking her final career reinvention will be as an editor. But given how young and healthy she is, who knows?
Look at Erni Stollberg, the Austrian model who became an Instagram sensation at 95. That redefines “aging with style” — just like model Lauren Hutton, who was a Calvin Klein underwear model at 73.
The Not-So-Quiet Revolution
Several years ago, when encore careers exponent Marc Freedman wrote about how mature adults are navigating the new stage beyond midlife, the idea of pressing the reset button and jumping into a whole new chapter was fairly unusual.
Now the avant-garde has hit the mainstream. Dorian Mintzer, a leading edge Boomer at 73, defies stereotypes: she became a first-time mom at 50, and is still full-steam-ahead as a septuagenarian. Mintzer created Revolutionizing Retirement when she realized her retirement was very different from that of her parents. It’s a journey, as Laura, Erni, and many others exemplify, and not a destination. Retirement reinvention isn’t static — and it needn’t be serial.
Mintzer has a “portfolio career” as a retirement/money/relationship coach, consultant, speaker, writer and teacher who works with individuals and couples to navigate pre-retirement and retirement transition issues.
She also founded the first virtual positive aging community, Boomers and Beyond (which has been meeting since 2007), and in 2012, the Revolutionize your Retirement Interview with Experts Series to help older adults create a fulfilling second half. Interest was so strong the calls are recorded for repeat listening.
“Sixty is not the new forty; we are who we are,” Mintzer says with verve.
Not Who You Were, Who You’re Becoming
“We need to harvest the wisdom of life, not the information,” observes
Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi. “The planet is glutted with information today. What we need is the wisdom to know how to use that information.”
Wisdom wears many guises. Even chronic illness doesn’t have to define us. Aware adults can change their dreams and adapt. For instance: multiplatinum singer–songwriter Linda Ronstadt, 72, can no longer sing due to Parkinson’s. Now she speaks and writes to inspire others, and shares what she’s learned during seven fulfilling decades.
“Work is not a four-letter word; think of it as part of your life plan,” says career transition and personal finance/retirement consultant Kerry Hannon.
Encore employment isn’t a linear process; more like a patchwork quilt. It’s important that older adults not get stuck in a moment; nothing is forever, and pivoting is not only possible, but can be highly rewarding.
We understand how vital active senior living is to those who choose to live here. The Kensington White Plains is located in the heart of our wonderful city, making it easy for our residents to find the part-time work or volunteer activities they seek.
Our accessible, street-level location offers “urban walkability” with all the charm and welcome of nearby New York City — yet with a somewhat slower sensibility that befits seniors who may enjoy a bit less of a full throttle pace than they did decades ago.
When they’re onsite, we also keep our residents as busy as they want to be. The Kensington White Plains offers events seven days a week, from morning until evening. Regular activities create friendships, and help to foster engagement and preserve wellness. This is the essence of healthy aging. Welcome home!