Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Achievers for All Seasons

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Achievers for All Seasons

Article excerpt

WHENEVER I read an article about someone who continues to work long after a normal retirement age, I add it to a red folder labeled "Older Achievers." During the past year this once-flat folder has expanded considerably to accommodate charming stories about the famous and the obscure, all united - in my file drawer, at least - by the common bond of late-life employment or creativity.

Among the more widely known octogenarians in this very random collection of clippings are 81-year-old Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, 82-year-old actress Jessica Tandy, who most recently starred in "Driving Miss Daisy," and 86-year-old jazz trumpet player Doc Cheatham, whose musical career spans 70 years.

And then there are the unknowns, including Sam Cascio, a 94-year-old bellhop at the Chicago Hilton & Towers. Mr. Cascio, who has worked at the hotel since 1927, still carts guests' luggage four days a week, 6 1/2 hours a day. He refuses to retire because he "might get old."

The folder also includes stories about the Rev. James Murphy of Ken Gar, Md., who at 82 has been pastor of the First Baptist Church for 40 years. And Mary Houck, the 88-year-old owner of Mary's Beauty Salon in Montgomery County, Md., who continues to serve customers ranging in age from 67 to 92. Mrs. Houck explains that 15 years ago her doctor told her the secret to a long life was to "never give up working."

But while the red folder profiling these energetic members of the "no retirement" set grows thicker, so does a blue folder labeled "Early Retirement." In recent weeks alone, the District of Columbia school system offered 1,300 administrators and teachers an "easy out" early-retirement plan that is paying a $10,000 bonus to everyone who retires by July 1. On the West Coast, 636 professors at the University of California have agreed to accept early retirement. Add to these the countless news stories about corporate golden parachutes and sweetened pensions for people as young as 50, and the pattern is obvious: The definition of "retirement" is more fluid than ever before.

For some young retirees, the departure marks the end of a 9-to-5 routine, at least temporarily. …

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