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Will working longer add years to your life? Believe it or not, there is a lot of evidence that working longer can increase your longevity. So if you are thinking about retirement now, or if you have already retired, you may want to read some of the amazing findings about your health and longevity in this blog.

First, consider a few interesting statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the current national average age at which people retire is 63 years old. The AARP association reports that 40 percent of people over 55 continue to work.

Early retirement seems like a dream for those who don’t enjoy their job. But no matter how tempting early retirement might be, it may not always be the best option. With all the benefits of retirement (free time, less stress, and less obligations), without careful planning and some preventative steps, retirement can take a toll on “the good life.” Retiring at age 55 and spending the rest of your life relaxing on the back deck may sound appealing, but mounting evidence shows that staying in the workforce longer is good not only for our bank accounts but for our health and mental acuity as well.

As the large baby boomer generation has grown older, more research funding has been granted to aging studies. Without knowledge and some preventative steps, early retirement may take a toll on our futures.

Consider A Few Major Financial and Health Costs Associated With Retirement

  1. You could run out of money. Obviously, an earlier retirement means a longer time to rely on your assets. Without a solid nest egg or a supplemental income stream, there is a chance of deep financial challenges. Stock market issues, increased costs and other issues could devastate your retirement savings. It’s easier to fund 20 years of retirement rather than 40. Chronic financial stress produces chemicals that are highly toxic to brain cell growth and survival.
  2. Retirement may interfere with socialization. After retirement, workplace friendships sometimes fade away. A lack of social interaction can contribute to the deterioration of mental and emotional health.
  3. Retirees often state that they lack purpose in their lives. While a few weeks of down time and rest are relaxing, many retirees state they no longer feel the former life meaning they felt while working.
  4. Retirement may negatively affect your longevity. A 2013 study from the Institute of Economic Affairs in the United Kingdom found that retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by 40 percent. Retirees don’t always have a reason to get up and follow a structured plan of activities. That can lead to a sedentary lifestyle that reduces physical health.
    An 18-year study conducted by Oregon State University reported that healthy older adults who retired one year past age 65 lowered their death risks by 11 percent compared with those who retired at 65. Ironically, even unhealthy adults who worked an extra year lowered death risks by 9 percent.
  5. Retirement may drive lowered cognition. There are many hypotheses about why this happens. Employment often demands essential processes like decision making, time management, continued learning, organizational skills, and problem solving. Mental acuity suffers and brain cells can atrophy when brains aren’t fully challenged on a regular basis. Recent studies including a large-scale study by the International Journal of Geriatric Psychology in 2010 found evidence that the earlier people retire, the sooner they are likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.

Today’s “Retirement” Is A Dynamic and Fluid Process

If it sounds like a choice between the lesser of two evils such as working forever to keep the bank account full and the mind sharp versus relaxing in a retired brain fog, it certainly doesn’t have to be.

Developing mentally demanding hobbies and staying fit and active may forestall mental decline. Even working part-time keeps social connections alive as well as keeping the mind active and the wallet somewhat filled.

Many people retire from long-term jobs. They take a break, relax, and recharge. Once they have retooled and revitalized, they resurge in new, unexpected ways. Many enjoy applying their knowledge and energy as consultants. Millions of baby boomers are trending toward the brave new world of becoming “RETIRE-preneurs.” They consider retirement as a transition…not a clean break from work. Magazines and websites show plenty of evidence of former CEOs who like gourmet cooking opening businesses where they can bake and cook. Boomer fitness buffs get certified and lead Zumba and Yoga classes in gyms. Other retirees start podcasts and write books. The sky is the limit for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.

My father, Rev. Curtis Jennings, started his career as a welder in his father’s auto repair business. He then served his country in the U.S. Navy. After that mission, he went to college and seminary and became a Methodist minister for 58 years. He retired from the ministry at age 77. Off he went to the golf course and world cruises. But within one year, he accepted another full-time pastoral position. It seemed to keep him young and filled with purpose and youthful energy. He stayed up-to-date with current technology, he golfed (most often holding his own in competition with baby boomers and Generation X and Y). When younger pastors asked how he could pastor and meet the needs of his congregations for so long without fully retiring, my father would grin and simply reply, “My retirement is a journey…not a destination! He embraced life fully for 92 years…and he golfed regularly until just two weeks before his passing. That man is certainly my role model for a meaningful, active life.

Now that most people are living about 30 years beyond age 55, what are your plans to be part of “Generation Age-less”? I encourage you to submit your comments below and get a discussion going about options and opportunities we  can choose for our lives.

One thing you can definitely do is to sign yourself up for the Fuel for Thought blog. It will help you continue learning amazing new ways to power-up your brain with Octane!

Jeanie Mckay

Author of Octane for the Brain, Jeanie McKay, is a sought-after certified Life Transitions and Leadership Success coach, keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator with over 20 years experience empowering others to live their best lives. Jeanie is the Founder of MindZone LLC "Where the science of the brain meets the art of being human". Jeanie's most popular programs for "Generation Age-less" include Octane for the Brain: Rock Your 50s and Beyond... Ignite! Energy Dynamics, and Master-Minds for Health and Well-Being.

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