Working Past 60

Last month, I did a radio show in which we discussed some reasons to work after the age of 60. I used my own experience starting a new career at 65 as an example and then described some of the benefits from research. The gist was that staying active and engaged did more to help people age well than staying home and watching TV.

Given that those of us in our 60s can expect to live, on average, another 20 years, it makes little sense to stop contributing to the world around us. The fastest way to lose our communication skills is to stay home and do nothing. That’s also a quick way to let our physical and mental abilities atrophy. So here are some benefits of working past 60:

More income. Less than half of all households with adults 60 and over have sufficient savings to support their quality of life for the next two decades. Working longer not only helps pay for basics, it allows us to enjoy more of life. Whatever nest egg you have accumulated, more income will allow it to grow further. And whether you’re drawing Social Security benefits yet or not, the longer you work, the more you can increase those benefits.

Social opportunities. Maybe you didn’t like going to work. You were so glad to retire when you got the chance. But there comes a time when you miss the social interaction. All of our lives—first in school, then on the job—we have developed relationships with the people we regularly see on a daily basis. When those structures are gone, it’s tougher to stay in touch. A job—even a part-time one—gives you a place to go and people to see. It keeps you from becoming isolated.

New challenges. When the joy of sleeping in and relaxing wears off, try something new. A job can provide mental challenges that keep your brain active and working properly. The old adage of “use it or lose it” applies to cognitive abilities. Writing reports, selling products, learning to use technology, even solving problems in a fast-food environment—they all take mental effort and provide stimulation to keep your mind in better shape. Dr. Michael Roizen, the Cleveland Clinic chief wellness officer, says: “The people who don’t retire or who come back to work part-time live longer and live healthier with less disability.”

Physical activity. Not having a job to go to leaves many of us filling our days with watching television. And with the Internet, the viewing options are endless. But most jobs require us to get dressed and drive to the workplace. Some jobs require standing, lifting, and other forms of physical activity. Dr. Roizen says that people are “…less likely to develop chronic diseases if they are still physically active in retirement.”

An identity. A common question asked when first meeting people is, “What do you do?” So much of our social identity is tied to our jobs. When we retire, we sometimes struggle to come up with a simple answer. The work we do can give us a sense of purpose. It can represent an extension of our passions or skills. It can represent the role we play in the community. Often it isn’t until we retire that realize the how much we related to the work we did.

Given the number of years that lie ahead, it might be time to rethink the notion of complete retirement and consider pursuing new or part-time or even volunteer work. As the old milk ads stated, it does a body good.

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