retirement health, retirement, retire health, partial retirement

Part-Time Work May Keep Seniors Healthy

June 01, 2011 07:00 AM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
A recent study found that retirees engaged in temporary or part-time employment may be physically and mentally healthier than their fully retired counterparts.

Work to Stay Healthy

A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology suggests that complete and sudden retirement may have negative health effects for seniors. Instead of abruptly retiring, the study suggests that when seniors “transition to a part-time or temporary job before leaving the work force altogether,” that they are more likely to stay in engaged and healthy, Tiffany Sharples reports for the Time Magazine Wellness blog.

As Sharples explains, retirees who chose some sort of “bridge employment” between their regular jobs and retirement “may be less likely to face major diseases and more likely to keep up daily functions, compared with those who go straight from a full-time career into full-time retirement.” Going from a full-time job into full retirement implies a very abrupt change of pace that could be detrimental for mental health and overall well-being.

The study, based on data from more than 12,000 interviews with seniors between 51 and 61 years of age, found that people engaged in bridge employment were able to “keep their levels of physical activities and mental activities through daily work.” Sharples writes. At the same time, staying part of the workforce encourages daily interactions with other people, and can help prevent seniors from becoming isolated.

Find a Sense of Purpose

A similar study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2006 suggested that the happiest retirees were those that had found a “sense of purpose” for their post-career lives, and participated in “activities that they really enjoyed,” Joseph Shapiro reported for NPR.

Considering that today’s retirees are expected to live longer than ever before, the percentage of residents over 60 years of age is increasing in most cities in the United States, forcing communities to offer plans and activities that cater to their aging population. The Cleveland Foundation funded a series of projects under its Successful Aging Initiative, aimed at giving seniors a place to plan their futures as they reach the age of retirement.

“We really need to think about the fact that, as opposed to the earlier days when people might retire and have three to four years of active life, people now have 20 years of active life after retirement,” Bob Eckhardt of the Cleveland Foundation told NPR. “What are they going to do with this whole new gift of years?”

Tips for a Good Retirement

Apart from the possibility of working part-time during retirement, there are many things seniors can do in order to make the most of their golden years. Participating in volunteer work could be a very fulfilling and positive way to invest time post-retirement. As Ralph “Jake” Warner suggests in his blog Retire Happy, volunteering is an excellent way to keep yourself occupied, help a good cause and make new friends from different ages and backgrounds. Retirement is also a good time to expand on education or hobbies, go back to school or pursue a topic of personal interest. 

Some, however, might prefer more daring or ambitious activities. In his Web site The Retirement Café, Ernie J. Zelinski proposes his “Top-Ten Activities To Pursue When You Are Retired.” The list includes endeavors such as starting a newspaper, running a marathon and climbing the highest mountain you can find.

For the less adventurous, simple lifestyle considerations such as relaxing, eating healthy and drinking moderate amounts of coffee can keep your body healthy and your mind alert, helping to extend your lifespan.

Related Topic: Later-life career changes

Due to the recession, many seniors have been forced to delay retirement altogether and stay in the job market, or even take on new careers in order to pay the bills.

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