Continuing to Work Past Age 100

These workers consider age 65 an early retirement.

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Those who haven’t saved enough for retirement may have to work past age 65. Some people continue going to the office each day for decades past traditional retirement age.

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Sally Gordon, 101, works full time as an assistant sergeant-at-arms for the Nebraska state legislature in Lincoln. The former court reporter was named America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker last week by Experience Works, a nonprofit organization that helps older workers find jobs. She has no plans to slow down. “As long as I can I will work full time,” Gordon says. “I think you should work as long as you can because it gives you a purpose in life.”

[See How to Retire Gradually.]

When asked for the secret to living a long life, Gordon says, “I eat well and I walk.” She doesn’t own a car. “I always have soup year round and I eat most of my meals with chop sticks,” says Gordon. “It slows me down and it’s kind of fun.” A former department store model, Gordon continues to dress her best each day and wears a hat wherever she goes. “I always try to look presentable, because one never knows,” she says.

Former professional baseball player Emilio Navarro, 104, of Ponce, Puerto Rico, was also recognized as an outstanding older worker. He currently works 30 hours per week as a comptroller for Schuffley Alley, a gaming machine distribution company he founded in 1952.

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The 12-year-old Experience Works award has previously gone to an engineer, journalist, attorney, professor, and real estate developer who each remained employed long after most people retire. Those who continue to work past age 100 tend to have a few traits in common. “I think they have good genes and they have tended to be interested in nutrition and exercise and in staying active throughout their lives,” says Billy Wooten, executive director of program operations at Experience Works. “They have had a passion for what they do and they enjoy their work, whatever their chosen field is.”