Avoiding Retirement in Woodbury

Too much free time, no matter how much I crave it, will not help me stay mentally alert.

I will never retire.

Not because our 401(K) took a beating in the recession, which it did. Not because I don’t have a pension, which I don’t. Not because I love working more than lounging on my porch reading novels and sipping sangria. (Because that depends on the day.)

I hope to never retire because I have come to associate retirement with less physical activity, less social contact and less exposure to ever-changing technology.

Typically, when I have a job to do, I hurry to get it done. Whether it’s doing a load of laundry, planting flowers or writing this column, my mindset is often dread. I’d prefer nothing to do.

Then, I spend an hour volunteering at a nursing home. Let’s say, I’ve learned to be thankful for things to do. Not just fun things. Tedious things. Menial things. Seemingly endless things to do. Praise God that I have work that needs doing.

The concept of prolonged retirement is a relatively new phenomenon. According to MSN Money, up until the 19th century, people worked as long as they could. Since 1990, the downward trend of seniors participating in the workforce has begun to turn around. We can argue the reasons for this. But I’d say, it’s a good thing.

Experts say that the keys to healthy aging include staying physically active, learning new skills and being social, including exposure to people with a variety of viewpoints, and having daily challenges necessary to staying active.

Sounds like work to me.

So sitting on my porch too much or puttering around my house without the opportunity to overhear or participate in conversations about politics, sports, books or suburban roundabouts is probably bad for me. Too much free time, no matter how much I crave it, will not help me stay mentally alert.

And don’t get me started on older people and technology. At what age do we suddenly decide we cannot learn anything new? I had a 72-year-old say to me once, “I can’t use a digital camera because I don’t understand how it works.”

Does that mean most older folks can explain how a film camera works? Or how a television works? Or a rotary phone? I doubt it. You just pick it up and use it. I don’t know how my iPhone works. It just does!

A New York Times story about staying in touch with technology states that most new technology is encountered in the workplace. Think about it. A Wal-Mart greeter, no matter their age, still has to learn to use some new-fangled time clock to punch in and out everyday. That bit of familiarity can breed a comfort level with other technology.

Help bridge the gap. Buy a digital camera, a Kindle, an iPad. You can learn how to use them without necessarily understanding how they work.

Some have no trouble in retirement. They are active, vibrant people, living in Woodbury, not far from Minneapolis, which according to Forbes Magazine is one of the best cities to retire in.

Me on the other hand, I’m drawn to doing nothing. And that is no good for my health or quality of life. So, I’ll keep working as long as I can.


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