It is no secret that we at Creative Care Management are all about what families can do to help older loved ones … as well as help themselves. I often have said that a caregiver can be their best caregiver if they also are taking care of themselves. I came across some research that may be suited to a caregiver’s loved one or to the older caregiver who may be “at retirement age” but still in the work force.
A lot of folks are electing to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65 years…give or take. There is ample evidence that we as Americans are mostly living longer, because we are healthier, and some just find that they need to anticipate a bigger nest egg because we are also, in fact, living longer. Running out of money is considered a “bad retirement plan.” Research published by some Health Economists from The Netherlands suggests that working may be detrimental to one’s longevity…or conversely that retiring earlier could prolong one’s life. These Dutch researchers took advantage of a temporary change in retirement eligibility among male government workers to compare those who had retired early versus those who waited. Five years after the early retirement they compared the mortality rates of the retired men who were at least 55 years old when they quit with those who worked longer before retiring. Those who worked longer showed a 2.6 percent higher mortality five years out than those who retired early.
It is not a huge difference, and a person could argue that civil servants have a more stressful work environment…maybe. But studies ion the U.S., Israel, Germany, England and some other European countries had similar findings. Other research even shows that retirees are more socially active than once thought; so much for the social isolation and depression theories. We simply cannot overlook the fact that some jobs…maybe more than we had thought…are just stressful. Long hours get in the way of working out, and high stress can disturb good sleep or even lead to higher alcohol consumption.
So, early retirement could be in the cards for us all, but with a few caveats. Work on a nest egg that will be sufficient so that finances do not become a post-retirement stressor. Be active, especially if your career job involved high activity. Stay active so that obesity does not become a challenge with a new sedentary lifestyle. Continue to be socially engaged.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.