At 92, Ike Baker refuses to retire. He’s been a host at McDonalds in Dayton, Tennessee, for the past 21 years and intends to continue for another 10. He greets customers with a smile and a cheery word, making sure they have everything they need, and may be one of the oldest workers at the fast food chain, according to this report.
The Korean War veteran is one of a growing number of retirees who just won’t retire. Many believe giving up work is detrimental to their well-being – citing loss of identity, structure, status and social isolation….and they may be right.
The benefits of working
Author Michelle Pannor Silver interviewed dozens of doctors, academics, chief executives and homemakers aged over 65 for her new book ‘Retirement and Its Discontents. Why We Won’t Stop Working, Even If We Can.’ She discovered that many interviewees felt rudderless and unfulfilled, mourning their loss of identity.
“I was surprised by the CEOS who were disconnected in retirement and couldn’t wait to find some paid work that was fulfilling for them. Volunteering wasn’t going to cut it,” she told Forbes. “They spent their adulthood being shaped and cultivated by work,” she said, noting that many once had assistants to organize their schedules and, in retirement, they did not know how to use personal planning devices and were embarrassed by missing appointments.
One academic described his leaving party as “like a funeral,” where everyone talked about him as though he was dead. He planned to write historical novels but couldn’t get started. Ultimately, he decided to continue the research he considered to be his life’s work.
What, me retire?
Retiring never crossed Marie Hainline’s mind. Now 94, she’s thought to be the oldest working waitress in Iowa, doing two lunch shifts a week at the Bonaparte Retreat in rural Bonaparte, according to this report. She started working there in 1984 after new regulations, including age restrictions, forced her to close the nursing home she’d owned for 20 years with her husband Bruce.
Rose Hendricks, who owns the diner, says the always-smiling Hainline attracts customers with her laughter and chatter. “She’s more than dependable. She would work here every day if I let her,” Hendricks says. Wise-cracking Hainline, who grew up on a farm milking cows and feeding chickens from an early age, is a classic example of aging with attitude.
She insists it’s not just about the money, although “every bit helps.” For her it’s the social interactions with co-workers and customers. “I should pay Rose to work here,” the great-great grandmother says.
How to prepare
Pannor Silver recommends would-be retirees make lists of things they enjoy doing, like playing the piano or cooking, to help the transition from full-time employment. “It doesn’t have to be something you’re good at, just something that interests you. Then channel the energy you used at work,” she says.
Wealth management executive Patti Black suggests people talk to retirement coaches and make the transition slowly. For instance, if someone plans to drive across the US in a recreational vehicle, she believes it is worth renting an RV for a few weeks just to make sure it is as enjoyable as expected. Retirees with no purpose can feel depressed; she recommends finding part-time work, going back to school volunteering or mentoring, according to her comments to Barron’s.
She says retirees also need to evolve and adapt after going through the initial three to six-month “honeymoon period” of retirement. She cites the example of Jerry Moebes, 78; he planned to expand his hobby restoring and selling antiques when he retired from a major life insurance company in 2006 but reinvented himself when the recession hit and prices dropped. Instead of feeling depressed he found new hobbies, including line dancing, goes to the gym six days a week and spends hours in his vegetable garden. “I would be having a very difficult retirement if I didn’t have all these separate interests,” he tells Barrons magazine.
How about you?
Many Senior Planet members have already taken this advice to heart, staying engaged and active through their membership activities, and even volunteering at Senior Planet…teaching line dancing like Deborah Gouge and Dean LeClaire, or digital photography like Judy Kramer, or helping to hold down the fort at the front desk, like NYC volunteer Barbara Lewers: “I have been volunteering at Senior Planet for over four years. I handle the front desk and sometimes serve as a greeter. Senior Planet is a warm, welcoming place and it makes me feel so very good to be a part of this community. I highly recommend volunteering at Senior Planet!”
You don’t have to be over 60 to volunteer, either – just ask our youngest volunteer, Noah.
Curious to know more about volunteering at Senior Planet? Visit one of our locations (list is here) and tell them you want to join up!