Observation: People who keep working as long as they can, who don’t seem to have the word “retirement” in their vocabulary, keep their minds knife-edge sharp way into their 80s and 90s.
I’m talking mostly about entrepreneurs, scientists, academicians, self-employed professionals like doctors and lawyers, and artists—painters, sculptors, musicians, writers.
These people have one thing in common: They enjoy their work and will do it forever if they can. What they do has transcended to a calling, a vocation, even an obsession. Whatever you call it, it has become a lifetime pursuit.
Young man at 87
Dr. Sol Alvarez, a widely respected gastroenterologist, is now 87 but still goes about his daily work routine. He holds clinic and visits his patients in three hospitals. As a patient, I met him more than 30 years ago.
Today, he still walks briskly like a young man when he makes the rounds. He has been my tennis partner and he still plays golf regularly. Most importantly, his diagnostic and healing skills are as sharp as ever, and he has no thoughts of retirement.
Budji Layug, iconic designer of unique living spaces, cutting-edge furniture and decor, and a painter known for his grand, sweeping strokes in massive paintings, has been practicing his art and craft for decades. He quietly brims with creative ideas and the energy and enthusiasm of a millennial.
Manifesting that he hasn’t even peaked, Budji will launch on Oct. 22 the first of three planned books on his continuing design journey.
My unforgettable first-year high-school teacher, Onofre Pagsanghan (Mr. Pagsi to his students), was only 25 when he taught us English composition.
Since then, he has become a teaching legend, receiving multiple awards for his dedication to his vocation and his students, and for being the moving spirit behind Dulaang Sibol, the celebrated drama society of the Ateneo High School.
A visit to Wikipedia showed that today, at 92, Mr. Pagsi remains a member of the Ateneo High School faculty as a formator, giving talks and sharing reflections with students. A long and fulfilling career has enabled him to retain mental acuity way beyond the conventional retirement age.
In sharp contrast, I have seen people who, after they “officially” retired from their companies at 60 or 65, started to deteriorate mentally if they had not planned to replace the daily mental exercise of their previous jobs.
Worse, decreased physical activity also probably contributed to mental decline.
To avoid this “retirement syndrome,” try not to think, “I am retired” and other similar thoughts. Instead, your mindset should be that you have merely transitioned to pursuing new activities as part of a fresh new life.
Since I like working out in the gym to keep fit, I looked for my own mental gym to keep my brain cells fit and active.
So after my partner and I sold our company, I did several things: I took on marketing consultancies; I published my first book of poetry; I designed and conducted proprietary business seminars; I accepted positions in government where I felt I could make positive contributions; I put up a new business; I wrote and published two more books; I have kept our family’s educational foundation active.
Lastly, I have become a regular contributor to the Senior Lifestyle, which I consider an advocacy that I enjoy for a number of reasons.
First, it is a satisfying outlet for someone who considers himself a lifetime writer.
Second, it is an opportunity to express my views and insights on relevant topics, give helpful and edifying lifestyle tips to seniors, and talk about interesting and unique family stories and personal experiences which may be entertaining to readers, or with which they can identify or empathize.
One of the important benefits of writing regularly is precisely the subject of this piece—keeping one’s mind sharp.
Before I even start, I have to convince myself that the topic I have in mind meets at least one of my criteria, i.e. social/civic relevance, being helpful or edifying, interesting, and something readers can identify with.
Next, if the topic is technical or needs informational support, I research on it thoroughly, comparing different sources and making sure the facts, figures and quotations I cite are accurate. Then I make an outline to make sure the piece is well organized and flows smoothly.
The actual writing is the most enjoyable but demanding part. Since I’m always looking for the best way to express my ideas, the article goes through at least six handwritten and typewritten drafts, usually more. I do not stop until I’m perfectly happy with every word, phrase and sentence.
Besides my other pursuits, writing, and everything it entails, is my activity of choice to keep my mind keen and productive.
What is yours?
Choose a work that you love and you won’t have to work another day.—Confucius
There are some who start their retirement long before they stop working.—Robert Half, employment business pioneer —CONTRIBUTED