Retirement experts tell us we should try to work until age 70. Some seniors choose to work even longer. Experience Works, a nonprofit organization that helps older workers find jobs, recently honored an outstanding older worker in each state. I asked the three oldest for the secret to working past age 90.
Jack Borden, 100, only hinted at the answer. "I have a little wooden plaque on my desk that someone gave me. It says, 'Diplomacy is the ability to let someone else have your way,' " says Borden, who works about 40 hours a week as an attorney in Weatherford, Texas. The former FBI special agent has practiced law for 73 years, doing mostly real estate and probate work. "I must like it or I wouldn't still be doing it," says Borden. "There's a lot of people I can help without charging them a lot of money." Borden began working on the family farm at age 5. "By the time I was 10 years old, I was tying four mules to a grinder cutting grains," he says. The high school dropout went back to school for a law degree, graduating in 1936. "The experience is really the educator, and the more experiences you have, the better you are at any job," says Borden. "You are just now getting to the age when you are really worth your money."
Clara Murphy, 95, a legal secretary in Altamont, N.Y., stresses finding a job that suits your personality. "You have to like your job," Murphy says. "If you don't like your job, don't stay. Find something else to do, because it will never work out." Murphy tried out various professions—payroll at a garment factory for $12 a week, secretarial work at the Schenectady Army Depot during World War II, an embalmer and funeral director—until she found one that was the right fit. Happy at her current post, she says, "There are plenty of legal problems that I can help with."
Mildred Heath, a 100-year-old journalist, is this year's oldest award winner. Heath works 30 hours a week for the Beacon-Observer in Overton, Neb. She has no plans to retire. Heath commutes one block from her apartment to work each day on an electric scooter, since she broke her hip six years ago. "Computers make it easier now. You used to have to use hot lead with the Linotype," a machine that turns hot lead into lines of type for the printing press," she says about the newsroom. "I still have scars from the hot lead." The 85-year career newspaperwoman still seeks out local news, takes classified ads, files photographs, and tries to grab incoming faxes before younger workers. Heath says she is still working because she likes to write and enjoys being caught up in the flurry of current events. Instead of greeting her coworkers with "Good morning," she's been known to ask, "Got any news?"
These older workers aren't that far off from the oldest people alive. Although the identity of the world's oldest person is often contested, the Associated Press recently called Tomoji Tanabe, 113, of Japan the world's oldest man and 115-year-old Edna Parker of Indiana the oldest person.