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Working after retirement age and your health

Could working after the age of 65 improve your wellbeing?

6 minutes

For many, retirement is an opportunity for adventure and freedom from the 9 to 5, while others find the lack of structure intimidating. But you don’t have to retire when you hit the state pension age – so how do you manage your health in your later years if you’ve decided to stay in work? 

  • Is working past retirement age good for you?
  • The over-60s workforce has a lot to give
  • We hear from three people who made it work

'People who engage in organised work tend to live longer'

Times are Changing 

 
In the last decade, the number of people working after retirement age has shot up. In 2008, roughly 650,000 people aged 65+ were in work; now, there are more than 1.1 million. But how is working after retirement age affecting the health of people in their late sixties?


There are a number of reasons why people choose to work after retirement age: to save up more money is the obvious one, but many people continue to find work fulfilling, while others enjoy the camaraderie with their colleagues.

One in five adults (20%) found it difficult to adjust after retirement, according to research by the Centre for Ageing Better.
 
According to the research, of those planning to retire in the next five years:

41% worry about managing their money
24% worry about a loss of purpose
17% are scared about potential loneliness.

The worries of those planning to retire in the next  five years, according to Centre of Aging Better

Work for pleasure, not for money


If you continue to work after retirement, the reasons you choose to do so could well be interlinked with how it affects your health.

People who engage in organised work tend to live longer, Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist and director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell University, told CNN last year.

People who have chosen to work longer, rather than being forced to do so for financial reasons, benefit from it.

‘For people who work involuntarily, it's the opposite effect,’ says Karl.

However, many approaching retirement will struggle if they leave work, due to low pension pots and increasing life expectancy.

From April next year, total minimum state pension contributions will rise to 8%, highlighting the fact that people need to start saving into other funds if they want to retire in their 60s, or earlier.

The importance of staying socially active

The biggest single risk factor for becoming depressed in the elderly is social isolation.

The Institute of Economic Affairs says the chances of suffering from clinical depression increases by around 40% after retirement, and of having at least one diagnosed physical illness by 60%. 

Staying active and engaging in paid or voluntary work can help people stay socially integrated, says James Warner, a psychiatrist at Imperial College London.

‘People who stay socially, physically and intellectually active have less chance of developing dementia,’ says Warner. 

 

How working keeps you in good health


Working into our twilight years is good for us, argues England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

In her annual report on the state of the public’s health, Davies urges people not to slow down after 60, but to remain in paid employment or voluntary work to improve their chances of staying healthier for longer.

She firmly told people that this is the ‘chance to take on new challenges – it is certainly not the start of a slower pace of life it once was’.

The over-60s workforce can also give a lot back. There are 14 million people aged over 60 years with a lifetime’s worth of skills and knowledge to share and can help stave off isolation, according to a report by charity Volunteering Matters.  

There is actually a website dedicated to finding jobs for retirees, where people with years of experience offer their services, look for something new, or take their next step, called Retired 4 Hire.


Three people who make it work

Denise Smyth, a 65-year-old retired London schoolteacher, says that although retiring can be daunting, there’s a whole world out there for you. As the chair of her local Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), she's a regular fundraiser, taps into 49 interest groups through the U3A, and enjoys dancing and playing the piano. 

Graeme Munro, former chief executive of Historic Scotland, has now been retired for 14 years, but he still volunteers. 

‘My greatest enjoyment has come from helping out in our local Oxfam bookshop. It gives me the chance to meet and work alongside people from all walks of life and of different nationalities,’ says Graeme.

‘I have learnt new skills in book valuation and extended my range of reading, which helps me stay young in outlook and keep in touch with new ways of thinking and doing,’ he continues. 

 

My mantra is that retirement is not for doing nothing, it’s for doing something different. It doesn’t feel like work – it’s a new adventure every day.

Lyn Kimber

Lyn Kimber, who now lives in France and runs a property development company, spent 24 years working in retail management in the UK.

‘I am now 68 and have had 17 years of happy and healthy retirement,’ she says. 

After buying a boat on the canals in France as a renovation project, she went on to buy and run a 22-room Maison de Maître in Burgundy for five years, before moving south to set up a rental business in rural Aveyron.

Now, she lets homes, ‘giving us a much better return on our investment than the banks,’ she explains. 

My mantra is that retirement is not for doing nothing, it’s for doing something different. It doesn’t feel like work – it’s a new adventure every day.’ 


Choosing to work after retirement can help you stay socially, mentally and physically active – as well as broadening your horizons. Just make sure that you stay mindful of your health and wellbeing.