I recently attended the Oregon White House Conference on Aging and found that more and more researchers are encouraging people to delay retirement. In order to understand why researchers are recommending this, we first need to look at the real meaning of the term “retirement”. When Social Security was implemented back in the early 1900’s the meaning of retirement really meant that you quit work and died. The average life expectancy at the time was 61.5 years of age. Social Security could be accessed at the age of 62. Thus, the government felt that this incentive would move the older population out of the work force to make way for the youth that could not find jobs. At the same time, the government would not have to pay out much money as people would die soon. That is not the case today.
Today, life expectancy is well into the 80’s for both men and women. The fastest growing age group is 85+. So when a person retires as in the traditional sense – they quit work completely, they can have 20-30+ years left to live. One must have quite a nest egg to financially live that many more years and researchers are finding that if you don’t have a strong sense of meaning for your life, or rather purpose you can be more prone to strokes, not to mention other diseases.
Finding purpose can come in varying ways – transistioning to a new job, volunteering, or caring for a family member. Whatever you do, before you decide to leave the work force have a plan in place that gives you purpose.