Am I Really Retired?

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Okay, so I don’t work anymore. At least I don’t go to an office every day in return for a paycheck. Instead I go to my daughter’s at least five days a week to watch the boys. One is five years old and the little guy is twenty-one months. In another month or so, they will have a baby sister. This is retirement?

Retirement usually conjures up thoughts of daily lunches with friends, movies, catching up with a reading list, and traveling.  Just plain kicking back and enjoying the slow and easy life has never been an option for me.

When I was thirteen I got a job on weekends and school holidays working for a professional dog handler. It was great fun because I learned a lot about my favorite four-legged friends. It also established a lifelong habit of working, working, working. 

When I was raising my daughters—working full-time to support us and rushing home to make dinner and perform endless chores—I continued my working habit. I even had my own business to supplement my income. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining; I have always enjoyed being busy. In fact, the only reason I am aware of the fact that I am not “retired” in the normal sense is because my oldest daughter—somewhat frustrated because I didn’t have time to talk on the phone very often—said I was the busiest retired person she knew. That is good, not just because I enjoy being busy, but being busy is essential to people’s mental and physical health.

The October 2009 Journal of Occupational Health Psychology reported the findings of several studies that indicated retired people suffered from fewer diseases and had better mental health. 

The National Institute of Aging sponsored a study of over 12,000 retirees over a two-year span. Their findings were similar to many other studies, such as the ones conducted by the University of Maryland and the University of California at San Bernardino.

The consensus was that most people benefit from working either part-time or for a span of time sufficient to allow them to transition from the nine-to-five rat race to a more leisurely lifestyle.

Seniors who do not work frequently vegetate and steadily weaken both physically and mentally at a faster rate than those retirees who continue to work on a reduced time schedule. Those who continue to work part-time—usually in a job related to the one they had for many years—were able to maintain their self-image and sense of purpose, while those who did not work were frequently diagnosed with one of eight physical problems. Heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disease, arthritis, cancer, and psychiatric problems frequently are diagnosed after a person retires. In short, it is healthy to continue working.

Unfortunately, retired persons who have economic problems may work solely for their paycheck, so the benefits of post-retirement are not an advantage to them.

Probably some retirees have a sufficiently busy lifestyle that is not hindered by financial problems and they neither need to continue to work or even desire to do so.

Since there are many benefits to maintaining work habits, the idea does merit consideration. In fact, it may deserve as much attention as financial planning. With that in mind, I hereby raise my cup of tea and toast to all: Happy retirement!




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