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Retirement may be dangerous to your health

Retirement May be bad for your Health

Most working people are convinced that retirement is a good thing. No more getting up early in the morning and getting stressed out in traffic; the end of being admonished by your boss or shown up by your co-workers. But the truth of the matter is that not only will you miss all that stress and aggravation, you would have been a lot healthier if you never retired in the first place.

There have been thousands of studies comparing the health and longevity of those who retire early to those who keep working into their seventies, or even into their eighties like many actors and comedians. The bottom line is that your life expectancy after 65 years of age almost doubles if you keep working until you are 75. A recent study has shown that if you are reasonably healthy by the time to reach 65 years of age, 55% of those people will reach the age of ninety. Of course this statistic only applies to people who can still perform their jobs at older ages and not the workers who spend 30 years at Dofasco or Stelco or doing hard labour most of their life. However, if you are the average white collar worker, teacher or just do very light physical work, retirement may be your downfall.

We human beings are very social animals. We need to see each other, interact with each other and share thoughts and ideas. Just think of all the people travelling to work every morning. Nearly two-thirds of them could do their work from home and the highways would be almost empty. Yet every time businesses try to let people work from home and not come to their place of employment, productivity drops off. The strong desire for social interaction with your co-workers overrides as much as a 4 hour commute.  My mother worked for Canada Post and was forced to retire at the age of 65. All the time she worked there she did nothing but complain to me about her working conditions, her bosses, her co-workers and her commute. Yet when she was forced to retire, suddenly her life was empty. Fortunately for her many of her co-workers were in the same boat and she was still able to see them socially after that. However her health began to deteriorate and she seemed depressed. In spite of her complaints, life without work was pretty empty.

On the other hand I have an uncle who started a jewellery manufacturing business more than 60 years ago. It is very successful and is run by his sons, but my uncle, who is 87 years old, comes into the office every morning at 8 am sharp, works until 1 pm and then leaves to either play poker or play 18 holes of golf. He is in excellent physical shape and not only does he not take any medication, but his mind is as sharp as a twenty year old’s. He is a multi-millionaire, but he chooses to work and it seems to suit him very well.

Anyone could look at the statistics and come to the conclusion that it is not retirement that starts you on the road to ill health but possibly just the fact you are getting older and more things are going wrong with your body. This may be true but when you look at large studies that involve hundreds of thousands of people, the results are always the same; those that work the longest, live the longest.

This year the Harper Government will try and move the retirement age up to 67 from 65 years of age. When Old Age Security (OAS) was instituted in 1952, the average life expectancy in  Canada was 70 years of age. At that time you had to be 70 to collect OAS but now it is 65. Today the average life expectancy is over 80 years of age and so I do not think it is unreasonable. What is unreasonable is that members of parliament collect a full salary pension benefit after only 6 years in the House of Commons. They should call parliament the House of the Privileged few since the rest of us are merely the commoners.

Most people in the workforce today multitask. They get up early, get the kids ready for school, run off to work, come home and make supper and then take the kids to soccer or hockey practice. The years go by and suddenly the kids are gone, the house is empty and instead of filling up all that spare time, we let ourselves become stagnant. Just imagine high stress workers such as policemen and firemen who retire at very young ages, 45 in many cases. They now have to decide what to do for possibly the next 45 years of their life and they cannot go back to work. This is where illness can set in and you must find a way to keep active because it will keep you healthy.

I recently met a woman, 57 years old who worked for the government for 35 years, lived frugally, did not travel and waited for retirement. Six months after retiring, her husband suddenly passed away and she is now a lonely woman who wants to travel but has no travelling companion. This is not one of the beautiful retirement stories advertised by insurance companies.

Many people who retire early start small businesses that in the past may have been their hobby. It may be a little hand-made furniture store, a flower shop or a restaurant to pass on those great recipes from over the years. If that’s not you, consider volunteer work. There is no greater feeling of happiness than helping others in need. Join clubs to maintain social contacts. Maybe you like to play bridge, belong to a book club, or just hang around with a bunch of pals for coffee and golf. All these activities not only contribute to your health but to your longevity and the quality of your daily life.

The majority of the population in North America is overweight because human beings were never designed to walk a few steps to a car, sit behind a computer all day and then walk a few steps back to the car and go home. This obesity leads to a multitude of diseases. In the same vein, human beings were never meant to just stop working and wait until death. If you stay active in your old age, not only will you be healthier but the quality of your life will be so much better.

Otherwise you be singing the blues from that old Peggy Lee song “Is that all there is”

“Then let’s keep dancing, bring on the booze, let’s have a ball if that’s all, there is”                                                                                                                                                         [print-link}

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