The One Surprising Thing You Can Do to Live Longer

Senior Woman at Work at Store

We're constantly bombarded by news about things we should—and shouldn't—do for the sake of our health. Sometimes, the very thing we're told to do one year, we're told not to do the next! It can be confusing to navigate the various recommendations. Not only do we want to live longer, but we want to live well, in terms of both health and finances. Fortunately, some very reliable research suggests there is one surprising thing you to live longer, and not only will it not cost you money, it will help you to be more financially secure.

What is this elixir of life? Believe it or not, it's work. Specifically, continuing to work past the traditional retirement age of 65. Despite the common belief that working too hard or for too many years will cut your life short, research suggests otherwise, for some pretty compelling reasons.

Research on Work and Longevity

A study conducted by the University of Michigan, and funded by the National Institute on Aging, found that people who work beyond the age of 65 tend to live longer. This might seem counter-intuitive at first: wouldn't it be better for your health, and longevity, to reduce the emotional stress and/or physical strain that work often imposes?

According to the study, work offers not one, but two things that contribute to a longer life span. The first of those is economic stability. Makes sense: if you are working, you are not only earning more than if you're retired, and possibly saving some of those earnings, but you're not dipping into your existing savings in order to live.

Work offers not one, but two things that contribute to a longer life span. The first is economic stability. The second is social activity.

The other benefit work offers is social activity. You're getting up, getting out, going to the office, job site, or store. You're interacting with people and avoiding isolation. Research has shown that isolation shortens life; it does make sense, then, that social activity can help avoid this outcome.

At this point, you may be wondering if the study results are putting the cart before the horse: after all, it is possible that people in good health work longer because they are physically able to, and people in good health tend to live longer than those who are not. Is it really work that provides the benefit, and not having been in good health in the first place?

It appears so. The study looked at both those who were deemed healthy and those considered unhealthy. Individuals in the "healthy" group who worked one year longer than the typical age of retirement had a mortality risk that was eleven percent lower than retired peers in the same group. For those in the "unhealthy" category who worked a year beyond typical retirement age, the risk of dying was nine percent lower than same-group peers who retired early.

Good News for Baby Boomers

Fortunately for baby boomers, who are hitting, or have already reached, their golden years, work opportunities abound. For some who are reaching their sixties (and beyond), they continue to work because they find it stimulating and engaging, or because they've reached the pinnacle of their careers and aren't ready to set their achievements aside. For many others, work is an economic necessity. Whatever the motivation for continuing to work, the benefit in terms of longevity remains.

Overall, more seniors are staying in the workplace, according to research from the Stanford Center on Longevity. The 2012 research indicates that almost a third of those aged 65 to 69 still work at least 10 hours per week, up 26 percent from the same age group in 2000. Seventeen percent of individuals aged 70 to 74 were still in the work force, representing a 42 percent increase in the same time period.

The same research indicates that delaying retirement to age 70 can increase retirement income by about a third, meaning that when you do retire, you will be able to do so more comfortably. And if the research on longevity is to be believed, you'll be able to enjoy that comfortable retirement a little longer.

Of course, just working isn't a magic bullet to a financially secure retirement. Even if you are a couple of decades away from closing the door on your work life, the decisions you make now will contribute to the kind of retirement you will be able to enjoy. To make the most of your retirement income, speak with an experienced elder law attorney with experience in retirement planning issues. We invite you to contact our law office for more information.

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Categories: Elder Law

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