Ray Crist retired at age 104. He was a scientist who worked in a lab. At age
82, he started researching how plants might remove toxic poisons from polluted
soil, such as mine tailing’s. He didn’t do it for money—he donated his dollar a
day salary to charity—but for love. He loved doing science! Why retire from
something you love doing, something that harmonizes with your deepest values and highest aspirations?
Individuals who experience deep job satisfaction live longer. In fact, work
satisfaction is the #1 determinant of longevity, more than genes, diet, or
exercise, according to one study[i].
Consider all the successful people who continue to create long after retirement
age when they clearly don’t need the money. Paul and Mick, both 70 now, still
rock. Octogenarian Clint Eastwood still directs movies, Willie Nelson still
tours, and Betty White & Cloris Leachman still make us laugh. Their vitality is
admirable and enviable!
According to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5.4% of Americans aged 75+
still work, most of them for pleasure not money, as illustrated in a recent
LA Times article. Studies show that staying intellectually challenged,
either through paid work or some other pursuit, improves a person’s quality of
life in his or her later years. In fact, when people are “engaged” in their
work, at any age, they visibly demonstrate competency, vitality and high
When your work energizes you, instead of drains you, why would you stop doing
it…especially as you age? When work harmonizes with our authentic self, then we
are “creating” something worthwhile—not necessarily art or
entertainment–something “good” in the world that is rewarded, whether it is a
scientific discovery or excellent customer service.
We are meant for this creating, and the reward is a by-product that is clearly
visible in the vitality of these engaged older workers. It is a joy to behold
such a person, and it is a joy to be such a person whose being matches their
doing—they are full of life, vitality, joy, energy!
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young. (Lyrics by Bob Dylan)
Of course, as we get older, our physical powers slowly or quickly waste away.
We lose physical strength, or eyesight, or hearing, or whatever, but we lose
such things whether we are wasting away in front of the television as a couch
potato or engaged in some worthwhile work that energizes us and keeps us
connected to others.
My goal is to help others find or create the kind of work that will last a
lifetime, work that engages and energizes. As Ray Crist and the others
demonstrate, if you are interested in your work, really energized by what you do
day in and day out, life is interesting. If you don’t have work that engages
you, life is boring as hell.
Most people either settle for or seek the extrinsic reward of making enough
money to survive and save for a pension…to stop doing what they don’t truly
enjoy..and live with the consequences, both good and bad. But, it is possible
to have a different kind of life, one with work that engages and energizes for a
lifetime, one that stimulates you to be a truly interesting person with a song
The real fountain of youth is not found in plastic surgery, or magic pills or
superannuated pensions or supernatural formulas. It is found within your
“creating” self, in which each new day offers an opportunity to express your
authentic self and give it through work to others for intrinsic rewards.
[i] Brown, Mark G. (1996). Keeping Score: Using the Right Metrics to Drive
World-Class Performance. New York: Quality Resources.