Invariably someone asks me when I am going to retire. I sometimes wonder why they ask me that question. Do I look and talk too old to work, are they wondering about their own work life, am I outdated?

I often shrug my shoulder’s look around and fiercely announce:

I am 76 and have no plans to retire! I BELIEVE I HAVE MORE TO GIVE MORE TO CONTRIBUTE. I work not only for the income but that I enjoy the work and benefit greatly from the synergy of an intergenerational partnership such as the one I share with Maks Ezrin and his talented team of coaches at YPM.

I scoff at the stereotypes that older workers are less motivated or unproductive. You get way more for your buck from someone who is older.

Some of the things I have learned while working

  1. Working Boosts your self-esteem. Working especially in my profession helps e feel like I am making a difference in lives of others. This ultimately boosts my self-esteem. Continuing to do intergenerational work such as I do gives credence to Erik Erikson and his 8 stages of man that suggests that in order for the world to grow you need folks with ego integrity helping to provide a safety net for creating Basic Trust that the world is alright and that change and growth are possible.
  2. Working fosters a positive mindset about aging. I try not to engage in negative self-talk about aging and not look in the mirror with disdain. The more I talk about what I bring to the table with my colleagues and my clients, the wisdom, skills and insights that I bring to an encounter, the more positive I feel. In like manner, the more open I am to listen and learn from my younger colleagues and see what’s important to them and how they navigate, the better I am equipped in my own craft.
  3. Working ignites my passion and purpose and invites me to stay relevant and up to date. In behavioral health something new appears every day, new therapies and a new way of looking at things. Trauma has become central to the way we look at the narrative one presents. Being open and doing meaningful work that is grounded in purpose, passion, authenticity and integrity is a great way to stay vital and make a difference.
  4. Working keeps me learning and growing. Attending professional conferences and taking new courses keeps me relevant. Also trying out of the box activities. Those of you who know me know I am not a jock, yet learning to play pickleball has also taught me new strategies that help me work as a team member, as well as help me stir the pot, so to speak, with families so they can help their loved ones. What I am discovering is we are never too old to learn. True I type these blogs with 4 fingers, and I am not a superhero on technology, yet it excites me to learn something new. Also, I am energized by new ways of communication and think even TikTok has a place in spreading public health messages. I continually discover that having a learning mindset set in a positive psychology frame enhances my confidence, competence and ability to do good work.
  5. Working allows me to stay connected with professional associations and networks. According to a recent Bureau of Labor statistics report, the number of people 75 and older in the workforce is expected to grow by nearly 96.5% by the year 2030. That is a strong indicator that we will experience an age inclusive workforce. I am excited.

Let me ask you a few questions

  • How does your behavioral health organization interface with seniors
  • How many seniors are on your staff?
  • What’s your intergenerational mix?
  • Do you have an employee mentorship program?
  • Do senior mentors in your field offer coaching?
  • What is your experience working with someone older and they are in a Jr. position to you?
  • What’s your experience in working with a senior who’s in a senior position
  • What do you think about aging?

When I was a young graduate student at the ripe old age of 20, I read, THE PERSON by Theodore Lidtz. He said when we age, we creak and groan a bit. I scoffed at that and thought impossible and yet there was wisdom in those words. Yes, I do creak, yet my zest for helping folks reach their best possible selves has been infused with joy, awe and possibility as I get to work and learn across intergenerational line. So thanks to all who allow me to partner with them and who help me become a better human and a better clinician.