You've crossed the great divide into middle age. You feel vigorous
and at the peak of your powers. You can't imagine why people ever retire.
Yet the thought crosses your mind. You've even heard numerous horror
stories about older employees. You're a great worker now, but will the
company want you around forever?
In a study that gives new meaning to the phrase "work till you
drop," two researchers have identified a number of strategies that
workers often take to remain on the job as long as they want or need.
"Organizations can do much to assist older workers to remain on the job,"
report psychologists Chrystie Meziere and Robert Hansson of the
University of Tulsa, "but the older worker is also an active participant
in the process."
First, the Tulsa twosome went to 49 employed and retired adults,
ranging in age from 40 to 87, and asked them to describe any
work-life-extending strategies they had ever tried, and whether such
maneuvers helped them carry out their responsibilities and avoid stress.
That yielded 130 strategies that fell into 16 categories, ranging from
increased attention to health maintenance to a variety of educational
efforts to avoid obsolescence.
Running those strategies past 108 more people, the team came up
with a Work-Life Extending Strategies inventory of 33 items, the team
reported at an American Psychological Association meeting in Washington,
D.C. The items were validated in tests on 54 employed and retired persons
aged 40 to 83.
In the final analysis, five basic strategies accounted for the
lion's share of success workers had in remaining gainfully employed in
their later years. So if you wish to extend your work life, take
o Broaden your career options. Pursue on-the-job training. Take
work-related classes or training programs to qualify for different
o Maintain positive self-presentation. Be careful about personal
appearance when at work. Develop a positive work reputation; maintain job
o Reduce risk in health and job security. Minimize age-related
risks to health and job security. Maintain a healthy diet. Avoid
job-related health hazards.
o Continue professional/personal development. Develop work skills
and outside interests. Read for new ideas. Pursue friendships outside
o Manage workload and resources. Reduce job stress by distributing
your workload across time or other people. Delegate work to others. Train
others to help you.