Loving work til the end

Work, not retire – a fulfilling end?

Loving work til the end

We are living longer and spending larger proportions of adult life in retirement. Is it inevitable that we are born to be schooled, work, retire and then die? What if life was - born, schooled, work, die and not retire?

There is an unquestioned model in life that says you are born, you are schooled, you work, you retire, and you die. Not everyone follows that model, but many do and few challenge it. In some parts of the world, work is something you grow up with especially if are raised on a farm, on the land, in a village or town where everyone has responsibilities to the community to provide specific services that have to be done e.g., to gather or make food. Or you may have been raised in a household where it is everyone’s responsibility to support the home, whether it is emptying the dishwasher, tidying up, taking the bins out, or getting needed items from the local shops, so working all the time is natural.

How many of us love work? How many recognise what work brings to our lives, which is not just about earning money, but also about being out in the world, collaborating with others, supporting fellow citizens, and caring for our wellbeing. On the other hand, how many of us go through our working life ticking off the payslips each month to get nearer to retirement? Or fantasising about the next holiday or weekend when we don’t have to work?

In all our experiences of working, do we realise how supportive working is? Do we consider what is actually needed in each area of our lives rather than assuming the common model e.g., work until you can retire?

In many parts of the world retirement has become a dominant feature of life, like a rite of passage. The average worldwide age of retirement is between 60 – 65, and the average worldwide life expectancy is 73 years, with variations between mid 50’s to mid 80’s dependent upon the country[1] - and life expectancy is growing. UK employment rates for those older than 65 doubled[2] between 1993 and 2018 when the pandemic hit and different patterns of work and retirement emerged as some older and younger professionals left work or made changes to their daily life patterns. When there are fairly stark changes in patterns of employment, it has a knock-on effect to the economy and to daily life. If less people are working, there are more jobs to fill or if people are working shorter hours there may be gaps in key roles and tasks being undertaken in some workplaces.

If we further consider that the world population is over 8 billion[3] and in 2022 there were estimated to be approximately 3.32 billion people employed worldwide[4], the “potential support ratio” (the number of people aged 20-64 divided by the number of people aged 65 or over, i.e., the number of workers per retiree) in many countries plummeted[5]. This means that we may need to consider in the future ways we care for our elders in our communities if the ratio widens.

To explain this further, we have more people living longer, and in some cases in poorer health, and whilst families and local communities may support the elders in their community, it requires more support from social services, medical services, pharmacies, community delivered meals (Meals on Wheels), people to tend to gardens and home maintenance, drivers for buses and other transport services to ferry people to their local facilities, services and shops. If the ‘potential support ratio’ shifts with more retiring, there can be an increased burden on those working, particularly if there are fewer of them to supply the services needed for the aged.

One other factor often highlighted when looking at working populations and retirement is that early retirement, or retirement no matter the age, can cause early mortality for some. This may be due to a withdrawal from society and with that comes loneliness and isolation; compounded by a drop in income which may mean less access to crucial services or products (food, pharmaceuticals), which then leads to neglect of the things that support the physical body. There may be other factors that can contribute to early mortality as the physical body goes from being fairly active to more inactive which causes a decline in physiology and other physical aspects. Added to which, if we consider what retirement is we need only look at the word to see that there is for some a level of retreat, withdrawal, or going into seclusion which supports the notion that in retirement medical conditions may emerge due to withdrawal or exclusion from life. That said, there are a few who retire from paid work early, and play very active lives in supporting their local communities.

What is it that has made retirement so prevalent in our world today, and for some a hard stop as they close the door on their working life? Is it that our experience of work is so poor that the thought of not working is the only thing that sustains us? Or that our quality of life is so poor when we work (e.g., that we feel tired and exhausted) that the burden of staying in the workplace seems to outweigh the problems (loneliness, social isolation) of leaving it? Is it that we are so sick, with an unhealthy, ageing body that it is simply impossible for us to continue to work?

At times when I am not working, I need to be rigorous with my daily living, and on top of the rhythms and rituals that support me, e.g., daily exercise, walking, ensuring I am out and about with other people, and having purpose in my life. If I do not do this, I can become ‘flabby’ in my sharpness, lose interest in life and other people and even gain weight.

I have found that work is very enriching, not specifically related to being paid (although that is an important aspect), but also because it gives structure, ritual to the day. It means being in contact with others, and it feels like it keeps all the muscles in the body (no matter the type of work) subtle, flexible, responsive, and healthy. I also feel a sense of purpose as in a reason why the work I do is important and contributes to a bigger picture.

But that may not be everyone’s experience. So, what is it that makes a poor work experience? Is it being in a job we don’t like? Working in an environment not conducive to our health? Having difficult relationships with colleagues or bosses? All of these can cause stress, mental or physical health problems, and can cause us to feel we would like to retire or leave work sooner - but maybe it is not that we need to completely leave work or retire, but that we need to find a different way of working, find a different type of work or a different job. There are times and situations when the most responsible course of action is to leave a workplace and honestly deal with any emotional problems that we have been affected by, so we do not carry them into a new workplace.

It might also be the case that we haven’t given enough attention to developing our ‘work muscles’ for our capacity to work but have dragged our body in and out of work for decades with no care for what supports the body. I know during a particularly busy period of work in the past, I would need chocolate and cups of tea to keep me going, and would then need heavy carbohydrates like French fries, and curries with a lot of rice to help me sleep at night as my metabolism felt out of kilter, and I felt tired in the day and awake at night. That, in itself, caused me to pine and fantasise about not working, or about having an ‘easy life’ by working only a few hours a week. Yet when I look back it wasn’t the work itself as I loved the work; it was the way I did not look after my body (e.g. exercise, food that supported it, adequate hydration) to be able to feel vital whilst at work, so my body suffered due to me treating it so poorly.

But what if it were possible to have an older body, and elongate our working life by building our fitness for work and in life? What if we observed how we are in life, and gradually developed new healthy rituals and supportive rhythms, learning by listening to the body with small experiments such as more hydration, different foods, and new exercise regimes that nourished the body so that it could enjoy being at work?

Work and life can seem busy too and we may ask - where is there time for ‘me’? But what if ‘me time’ is actually found in work too? What if we worked throughout our lives – in a way that supported us through the different phases of our life, and in a way that supported our body to flourish. And, what if we actually loved work til the end, no matter the work? What would that look like?

I have worked consistently for 44 years, peppered with annual leave here and there each year, and whilst many of my peers are considering retiring, or have semi-retired or fully retired I have no notion of retiring whatsoever. If someone would have told me when I was 17 that I would work for 44 years straight off, I may have looked at them with disbelief, but I have and feel fitter, more vital, and more purposeful than I ever have in my whole life, now at a time in my 60’s when some may say ‘you deserve to retire after all those years’. But why would I retire if my health is strong, and my fitness to work is often more solid than those 20, 30 or even 40 years younger than me? Now more than ever not just my fitness to work has gone from strength to strength, but so is the pull to work greater than ever because the purpose of work is so rich.

And whilst there is much work needed to run the planet we inhabit, work is also evolutionary, because it offers us the space to learn, grow, and to develop our relationships. More so, in this we can come to realise that work isn’t about building better widgets. As we have proven time and time again that whilst we can wonder at the marvels of technology, we still have some endemic problems in the world such as slavery, domestic abuse, war, and poverty that continue on unresolved. If we are curious, and observe life as we work, we can realise that those endemic problems remain as we are living wayward from our original design; a design that is based on a return to our natural way, a return to living Soulfully as the divine essence we truly are.

In living what is our natural way, what is most mind blowing about work is that taking care of our body supports us to work, and working supports our body – it is a beautiful equilibrium if we can find the balance needed and adjust as we go through life. What is there not to love about work if work goes hand in hand as part of our life, right until the end?

"We are designed to work in one way or another until our last breath, always engaging and letting humanity in. Let your last breath be your retirement. And before then, serve until you drop."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 303


  • [1]


  • [2]


  • [3]


  • [4]


  • [5]


Filed under

AgeingCareerDeathEldersRetirementWork life balanceWork stress

  • By Anonymous

  • Photography: Iris Pohl, Photographer and Videographer

    Iris Pohl is an expert in capturing images with a natural light style. Little to no time is needed for photoshop editing and the 'original' moment captured to represent your brand and remain in its authenticity.