“I plan to wear out rather than rust away” are the words of the late Anita Roddick, a British businesswoman, human rights activist and environmental campaigner, best known as the founder of The Body Shop. As she grew older, despite having an extensive fortune and a long list of business and life achievements, she dismissed the idea of retirement, calling it “rusting away.”
According to Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, people with high career well-being are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall, which includes physical health. Doing nothing, or “rusting away,” in your later stages can lead to depression and a shorter lifespan. It would seem that Anita Roddick was onto something!
Dr. Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute of Aging, has estimated that an ability to define one’s life meaning ultimately adds to one’s life expectancy. According to actuaries from the Social Security Administration in the U.S., we’re more likely to die the year we retire than we are during our last year of work! A classic 1958 study by the late George Gallup showed that retirement age often correlates with life expectancy (it should be clarified that raising children was also considered to be full time work).When he interviewed men living in their nineties, he found out that they had retired when they were in their eighties and that 93% had loved their work!
Imagine a society where the word “retirement” doesn’t even exist – that place is Okinawa, Japan, home to the best functioning, most physically capable Super-Centenarians in the world.
In summary, I’d like to quote investigative journalist Philip Day from his book Health Wars:
“Most of these long-lived peoples move into the twilight of their years with firm and functioning bodies, endued with a mind as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel.”
We have this belief that old age is a time for dire health, but in reality, these last few decades could be some of our best years. Longevity expert and demographer Jay Olshansky said, “living longer in itself would not provide a benefit, but living healthier longer would.”
If you’re aging, if you’re nearing 40, 50, 60 or 70, take Dr. Wayne Dyer’s advice from an interview he had with peak performance coach Anthony Robbins:
“Don’t let an old person move in.”