older female worker on online meeting with photos of coworkers online around her (Photo: Shutterstock)

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A new paper links longer working lives to health and longevity, arguingthat "age-based" retirement policies have led to a depletion ofretirement and social security resources, as well as flawedperceptions of older workers.

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The paper, authored by the president and theexecutive director of the Age Friendly Foundation, says that the"very definition of retirement" should be reconsidered in light ofdata suggesting that traditional retirement can be detrimental toworker's financial, mental and physical health.

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For businesses, a higher retirement age could mean less turnoverand more institutional knowledge for staff,which ultimately leads to more stability and increased customersatisfaction, the report argues.

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For aging workers, the paper says, a longer work life would alsohelp keep people engaged in their communities, offeringopportunities for learning, reasoning and social engagement. Anincreased sense of belonging, it argues, would help stave offcognitive decline.

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"There is a strong positive correlation between employment,social engagement, and longevity. Facilitating continued or newemployment of older workers not only adds more years to thoseindividuals' lives, but also adds more 'life' to their lateryears," the authors write. "When looking at increases in longevity,we need to characterize these additional years as added to themiddle of one's life rather than the end."

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The paper, titled "Working Longer Solves (Almost) Everything:The Correlation Between Employment, Social Engagement andLongevity," was published July 8 through the Wharton PensionResearch Council at the University of Pennsylvania. It was authoredby Amanda Henshon and Tim Driver of the Age Friendly Foundation, aMassachusetts-based nonprofit that "supports healthy, active andproductive aging" through advocacy, education and engaging thoughtleaders in aging services.

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Henshon, a former corporate lawyer at Ropes & Gray, servesas the group's executive director, and Driver, the president of AgeFriendly Foundation's board, is the founder and CEO of Age FriendlyVentures, the parent organization of RetirementJobs.com, MatureCaregivers and Age Friendly Advisor.

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The paper cites a 2020 survey by RetirementJobs.com and AgeFriendly Foundation, which found that unemployed older workers hadsignificantly less social interactions than their employedcounterparts. Those who do opt to work in retirement prefer a jobthat is new to them, that survey found.

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"There is a trend underway toward working longer, suggestingpeople are willing and feeling the need to convert their sustainedhealth into more years of work," the paper says. "Realizing thischange, however, does not necessarily come easily for all olderadults."

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According to the authors, nearly one in three people between theages of 65 and 69, and one in five between the ages of 70 and 74,are currently working, a participation rate that was up 50% in thelast 20 years.

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"Working longer addresses economic pressure on older adults andadds health benefits. Yet it remains a substantial challenge forthese older adults to find jobs in later years," the authorssay.

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"Many employers still need to be convinced of the value ofemploying older workers."

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