“It is over,” my vibrant mother expressed with sadness and resignation. Unfortunately, for her it was on that dismal March day in 2014 when she completed her final day of employment. My mother was not terminated, and she did not quit her job. The hospital where she was employed closed the program which funded her position. To say she experienced disappointment is putting it mildly. My mother just loved being employed. Volunteering was not even a consideration for her. Being compensated for work was what made her thrive. Far from being wealthy, it was not a fear of becoming destitute that contributed to my mother’s passion for work. In fact, she had always been quite savvy with her money being able to save and live beneath her means. No, my mother needed to work because it gave her a feeling of purpose, accomplishment, social connection, and a more robust sense of independence throughout all areas of her life. When this job came to an end, my mother was a youthful 82.

In the last few years of employment, my mother felt some pressure to retire. When I asked why, she confided that she almost felt defective because of her industrious nature. Some people made her feel bad about working at such an advanced age and intrusively would question her decision to continue. I suggested she remind those people that some who continue to work stay healthier and often live longer. My mother trumped me with a better response. She said, “I am going to tell people I am like Betty White.”

Last year, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal suggesting some people might be better off retiring sooner than later. Delving into the article, it was clear many of the people
interviewed have been successful in certain specialties and plan to utilize their talents in
another capacity. If that works for those individuals, I applaud them. In fact, one of my
colleagues retired in his mid sixties and developed a rich life with all of his interests and travels.  When I spoke to him last year, it was clear he was enjoying his life and had no regrets about his decision.

For many people, the choice to stop working makes sense as my colleague has exemplified. For others, like my mother, it is not so appealing. The benchmark for retirement of age 65 is
beginning to lose its allure as people live longer and healthier with the help of lifestyle
changes, modern conveniences and medical innovations. As a result, they want to continue to work in some capacity. Reasons vary. Some delay retirement out of financial necessity. Others have extended families who live away or have their own lives, and work provides vitality and focus. They enjoy the schedule of getting up, going to work, being productive and interacting with others. It makes them feel young at heart. Because many had to work full time along with raising families, they never had the chance to develop hobbies, and over the years, work has given them security and at times emotional and social fulfillment.

Americans have more choices than ever before, and one should not assume retirement is necessarily on the horizon because a 65th birthday is looming. Many would say we should
make way for the young. Others recognize we live in a youth-oriented culture and could benefit from the insights of the mature adult which I could not agree more.

On February 4, 2015, my mother took a one-way flight to Heaven. Although she fought hard, she lost in the final round of her battle with cancer. I miss her beyond words, but her spirit has been ensconced within me. Being a Psychotherapist and a Hypnotherapist, it is no coincidence I chose a profession where “wisdom comes with age”. I am thankful to my mother for instilling in me the value of being industrious. I, too, plan on working in some form as long as I possibly can.

Originally published at the Needham Psychotherapy Associates blog.