Work As Long As You Can?

Retirement bookProbably most people in my field are aware of a couple of papers on aging recently published (see references below). Maybe I should say “most people my age” are aware of them. Aging is on my mind as I approach retirement and it seems to be uppermost in the collective consciousness. Just look at the commercial about retired NFL quarterback, Payton Manning.

Working as long as you can and staying young are prominent themes in our culture. “Work as long as you can” seems to be what a lot of professionals seem to be saying as they come out of retirement to return to the workforce in one capacity or another.

What will Payton do?

Many forces come into play as I ask myself this question. I wonder if anyone else has a recurring dream about walking into the boss’s office and opening a conversation.

“I’d like to start cutting back my hours as I get closer to retirement age.

“Gee, I don’t know, Jim; I see you as being at the top of your game. Do you think this is the best time for a move like that?”

“Well, I’d rather retire at the top of my game than at the bottom.”

“Why don’t we just think about it for now. You know, if you left, it’d be like breaking up somebody’s home.”

“Well…I wouldn’t want to do that. Wait; whose home are we talking about?”

“Jim, let’s just look at your contract. See this where your name is signed in blood? This means you belong to the company in perpetuity and beyond that–your soul belongs to the devil.”

I wake up in a cold sweat with the refrain echoing, “Work as long as you can.”

Some of us never stop working. The news is full of stories of those among us who reinvent themselves, find new paths, or just stay on the ones which have always brought joy.

“Work as long as you can.”

I watched a music show on Iowa Public Television last night, Joe Bonamasso Live at the Greek Theatre. Joe is only 39 years old. But notice that most of the other musicians in the band could be described as–older. Marvel at their energy. Look how happy they are.

“Work as long as you need to.”


López-Otín, C., et al. (2016). “Metabolic Control of Longevity.” Cell 166(4): 802-821.
Several metabolic alterations accumulate over time along with a reduction in biological fitness, suggesting the existence of a “metabolic clock” that controls aging. Multiple inborn defects in metabolic circuitries accelerate aging, whereas genetic loci linked to exceptional longevity influence metabolism. Each of the nine hallmarks of aging is connected to undesirable metabolic alterations. The main features of the “westernized” lifestyle, including hypercaloric nutrition and sedentariness, can accelerate aging as they have detrimental metabolic consequences. Conversely, lifespan-extending maneuvers including caloric restriction impose beneficial pleiotropic effects on metabolism. The introduction of strategies that promote metabolic fitness may extend healthspan in humans.

Thomas, M. L., et al. (2016). “Paradoxical Trend for Improvement in Mental Health With Aging: A Community-Based Study of 1,546 Adults Aged 21-100 Years.” J Clin Psychiatry 77(8): e1019-1025.
OBJECTIVE: Studies of aging usually focus on trajectories of physical and cognitive function, with far less emphasis on overall mental health, despite its impact on general health and mortality. This study examined linear and nonlinear trends of physical, cognitive, and mental health over the entire adult lifespan. METHODS: Cross-sectional data were obtained from 1,546 individuals aged 21-100 years, selected using random digit dialing for the Successful AGing Evaluation (SAGE) study, a structured multicohort investigation that included telephone interviews and in-home surveys of community-based adults without dementia. Data were collected from 1/26/2010 to 10/07/2011 targeting participants aged 50-100 years and from 6/25/2012 to 7/15/2013 targeting participants aged 21-100 years with an emphasis on adding younger individuals. Data included self-report measures of physical health, measures of both positive and negative attributes of mental health, and a phone interview-based measure of cognition. RESULTS: Comparison of age cohorts using polynomial regression suggested a possible accelerated deterioration in physical and cognitive functioning, averaging 1.5 to 2 standard deviations over the adult lifespan. In contrast, there appeared to be a linear improvement of about 1 standard deviation in various attributes of mental health over the same life period. CONCLUSIONS: These cross-sectional findings suggest the possibility of a linear improvement in mental health beginning in young adulthood rather than a U-shaped curve reported in some prior studies. Lifespan research combining psychosocial and biological markers may improve our understanding of resilience to mental disability in older age and lead to broad-based interventions promoting mental health in all age groups.



  1. Well said, Katherine. Nice to hear from you.


  2. parentsfriend says:

    At almost 80, I retired to work six to eight hours five days a week. Blessed to have found a new career, writing and blogging. Matters not whether I am making money, although I am trying to sell more, because I am free to do what I want, how I want, and when I want. When you retire, I know you do not retire, but work as you will.

    Liked by 1 person

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