Today morning I was going through a study carried out at Oregon State University (OSU). It shows that the delayed retirement (after the proverbial age of 65) drops the mortality rate by 11%. So working longer means one will live longer. Retire early, die early; or retire late, die late.
The idea is that staying active and socially engaged helps maintain the cognitive and physical abilities. Work keeps mind and body active.
But there are studies that show that the delayed retirement is detrimental to health and psyche. A Boeing study claims that employees who retire at 55, live to 83, but those retiring at 65 last only another 18 months. The Shell study of past employees came up with the contrarian view. However, a study in the University of Amsterdam affirmed that retiring early could lengthen the life expectancy.
There are several studies with diametrically opposite findings. But one can’t deduce that the retirement per se is the reason. Statistical data are normally muddled by the fact that retirement may be due to plethora of reasons. For example stressful and hazardous professions are more physically demanding and damaging to health.
There are people who are forced to retire due to ill health or gross misconduct, contrary to those who opt on their own to retire early as a lifestyle decision to pursue hobbies or to engage in social or religious activities.
Retirement is like a bittersweet event, a mix of both bad and good things. It may be stressful due to the strain on savings or recurring expenses on health and medicare. But it also relieves one of the work and mental stress and gives an opportunity to start a new career or venture of choice.
What I find that people normally lose the purpose of living, their ikigai. They no longer have a reason to jump out of the bed every morning. The most disturbing signal is when they go into their shells without being in touch with friends and relatives.
Most of the countries have a mandatory retirement age. We have 60. I normally ask retiring people as to how they feel on the date of retirement. I can’t tell you the emotions involved. I have seen some of them crying at the loss of work, salary, perquisites, and above all, the colleagues and a purpose of life.
One of my bosses expired within one year of his retirement. But I see a number of my senior colleagues and bosses, who are totally engrossed in one or more activities. But what I feel is that organisations should plan a slower transition into retirement by cutting back on work.
Retirement is when you stop living at work and start working at living. One has to keep oneself fit and relevant for the family and society, and above all, for the self. Amitabh Bachchan keeps himself fully engaged at the age of 79 despite several ailments. Rekha at 67 and Hema at 73 defy their years.
I conclude with a quote by Harry Emerson Fosdick,
“Don’t simply retire from something, have something to retire to.”