The Value of Work as We Age

It is not the best of times, but it may not be the worst of times, either. It simply depends on the individual. Suppose we have lived a productive life, approached our work and recreation with gusto, and enjoyed our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and others. In that case, we probably have mixed feelings about getting old.

Giving up skiing, hiking, biking, and even travel are activities we set aside because they become too difficult or dangerous for us to continue. If our eyesight is poor, we give up most reading or try some of the many new technologies to overcome sight issues. Food and quantity change, as does our capacity to have a drink or two. 

If we loved the work we did for many years, what do we replace it with? Without question, aging is very different from what we have faced as children, youth, in our twenties, thirties, and when we retire. The lucky amongst us fill our lives with education, friends, various activities, relationships, marriage, and children. For many, our work has become so much a part of us that we feel empty without it.

Being 96, I have lived two very different and demanding professions and now live another as a published writer. In the process of the changes in my way of living, learning, and working, I am seriously surprised at my clarity of mind and memory. Do I ask myself why, or is it simply the luck of the draw? 

None in my family lived beyond 82, and none that I remembered made anything of their old age. They simply got older and passed away. Here I am, still productive and creative, and I feel a fire in my belly over what I do daily. And that is a crucial point to emphasize.  I go to work each day and write an essay. They are deliberately brief, to the point, and intend a message. I know that nothing I write is theory but is fact gained through experience, whether it was serendipitous or planned.  Events shaped my life and who I was and am today.  Hard to believe at my age, but they still do.

So, what can I offer those who have reached “old age?” Do not retire! Example: do not undertake activities to fill time, but see the activity as your work. Whether playing bridge or taking a water coloring class, those are your jobs, ones you want to do to the best of your abilities. Make it your business to learn as much as possible because you are paid to do this job. The remuneration is the benefits to your mind, body, and being who and what you are now, and if given more time, tomorrow.  

So, allow me to restate and hammer the point home. Do not retire. Go to work, whatever you see it to be, each day; if it’s a class, attend as often as it is given.  Ask questions, instigate dialogue, and push your mind and body. Failure is okay because it is not about becoming an artist or whatever. It is about the work that is keeping you alive and well!

I am a traditional behind-the-scenes leader. I listen hard to my coworkers and to those I have taught. I strive to understand what others do and say and then take on the role of meeting their needs as best I can.

In conclusion, for now, it’s never over until “the fat lady sings,” and I’m not waiting for that to happen because, in time, it will. Until she does, I will continue to go to work to do the best I can because I am being paid to do my job. The pay is my life. 

You do not retire—you go to work and are paid—with a better life


Author: Sy Ogulnick

Sy Ogulnick received a BA from UCLA, Teacher’s Credential from Los Angeles Board of Education and completed phase I (Master’s portion) in a Doctor of Behavioral Science program at California Coast University. Sy leased and operated a summer day camp in LA. He and his wife then purchased virgin wilderness land in Northern CA, where they built and operated a coed summer camp. They moved to Las Vegas, NV, and purchased, built and operated a community children’s program for families staying in a major resort casino in Las Vegas. They have created programs for children nationwide that employed many people and in the process developed successful training programs for personnel. This led Sy to lecture on how to train staff and the creating of community within the workplace. Sy was then invited to speak at professional conferences on how best to hire and train employees, which led to his becoming a consultant in the art of improving relationships in a work environment and eventually to his epiphany that “Leaders are the primary problem and the answer to the personnel issues that arise in the workplace.” Sy has written numerous papers on the subject of interpersonal relationships, leadership and power. He has lectured throughout the United States, has been interviewed by the media and has appeared on many radio and TV talk shows

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