2019 Annual Meeting Coverage: Purpose in Life After Retirement Presenter

Dr. Dilip Jeste Article contribution by: Sydney Wright, MD

The presentation by Dr. Jeste addressed the following four themes:

  • Retirement and Purpose in Life
  • The Two Faces of Aging
  • Successful Aging Among Physicians
  • Strategies for Healthy and Happy Aging

Retirement and Purpose in Life

Life expectancy at 65 will rise from 19 additional years of life in 2015 to 29 additional years in 2050. Retirement age in the US varies from 55 to no upper limit. Factors influencing retirement are health, finances, family, custom, and attitude toward work. Life after retirement is also varied and determined by:

  • Retirement location: same town or city, different location, retirement community, or extended travel and tourism
  • Retirement lifestyle: may include full or part time work, recreational and leisure
  • activities, volunteering, and family care giving
  • Health: physical, cognitive and mental

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
~ Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Purpose in life involving both ideas and activities is strongly associated with better mental and physical health.

Two Faces of Aging

In contrast to other large mammals, the human lifespan continues to increase while fertility-span and health-span have not. And, despite a decline in physical health over the lifespan, the sense of well-being in humans increases. Resilience, optimism, social engagement, control of emotions, favoring positive emotions, experience-based decision making, and self-reflection all contribute to increased individual well-being. These elements also contribute to increased neuroplasticity.

Successful Aging Among Physicians

Of the 250,000 physicians over the age of 65 in the US, approximately 100,000 are still engaged in patient care.

“I think I do science better no than I did when I was younger. In science,
judgement is so important, and I now have a better understanding of
which problems are important and which are not.”
~ Dr. Eric Kandel, Nobel Laureate

Strengths of older physicians include: education, socioeconomic status, societal respect, positive personality traits, and less risk of burnout than among younger physicians.

Risk factors for older physicians include: stress, expectations of others, limited outside interests, and higher risks of substance abuse and suicide.

Strategies for Healthy and Happy Aging

General strategies for healthy and happy aging include; Thoughtful attention to diet and calorie restriction, physical and cognitive activity, stress reduction techniques, sleep hygiene, therapeutic and preventive healthcare, intergenerational activities, social support, new learning opportunities, volunteer activities and mentoring.

Newsletter Reference: 
March/April 2019

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