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Over 75 and Still Working: On-the-Job Seniors Defy Notions of "Old Age"

by Ysolt Usigan

Although retirement age is usually considered to be 65 -- and in fact, statistics would mirror the notion -- many seniors are working well into their 60s and beyond. We found three inspiring individuals, all over the age of 75, who are still in the workplace, enjoying life and thriving. From exercising their minds to enjoying meeting new people, from the rewards to fulfilling dreams, these career mavens show no signs of stopping.

Evelyn, 84, the Energizer Bunny
Evelyn Davis just turned 84 on this past January. You'd think her age would stop her, but she gets up at 6 a.m. every morning. What gets her going? "I tell myself when I look in the mirror: 'You're not too bad lookin' for an old broad,'" she reveals. She then makes her lunch to take to work, eats breakfast, puts on her pedometer, and heads off to work.

She has always been employed at one point or another. She started her career at the Minneapolis Police Department, where she worked for 20 years. "I worked as a meter maid, I was in the police reserve and I was a supervisor in the property and evidence unit," she recalls. "When I retired in 1989, I moved to a warmer climate and I have always found some job to keep me busy ever since."

Now, Evelyn works every weekday except Wednesday, from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at a local Walmart. Her duties include straightening things up and putting products where they belong (you know, because consumers leave things at random places all the time as they shop, she explains). "I also help people as they ask questions, point them in the right direction, or take them to find what they are looking for," she adds. "Time flies by because I'm busy every second."

Evelyn has calculated that she walks anywhere from 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 miles during a typical work day -- so her job also helps keep her great shape. After a short day at work, she goes to the grocery store, heads home, puts her feet up, and has a cup of coffee to relax.

When asked why she still works instead of retiring, for Evelyn, it's about the money. "I have bills to pay, and I don't know what I'd do if I had to stay home all day -- I'd be bored," she says. "Working is fantastic. I see elderly people come in wheel chairs, and I think: 'I'm grateful to still be able to work and not be in that position.'"

So will Evelyn stop working at Walmart anytime soon? She exclaims, "Heck no!"

Martha Jones, 83, Real Estate Maven
Martha Jones might live in a Florida retirement community, but she's still a force to be reckoned with in the real estate world. And the funniest part is, she has retired three times!

She's had many careers: telephone operator, lab technician, retail saleswoman at Sears, interior decorator, bookkeeper, even soda jerk. Throughout the years, Martha's had many admirers, too. During World War II, she wrote to 13 servicemen overseas. Her work ethic was evident " she walked dogs to earn money to buy stamps. And it worked! Martha had about seven marriage proposals from servicemen.

But now, instead of writing to servicemen, Martha, who's also a cancer survivor, stays busy working from home as a real estate agent for Four Start Realty, located in Leesburg, FL. "My days are typically very busy once I'm up and going," she says. She no longer covers shifts in an office because she only sells in her community. Her day might start with phone calls from customers looking for homes or people who want to list their homes because they're leaving the area. She also makes appointments to show properties four to five days a week (depending on market conditions, that is).

Although Martha doesn't have set hours, she does make time for fun. "I usually play Bridge on Monday and Friday afternoons if I don't have any showings scheduled," she explains. "I also try to schedule my showings around my Tuesday and Thursday exercise class. I have COPD and I'm on oxygen, so I go to rehab exercise classes to keep me going."

Last spring, Martha was hospitalized because she had problems with her breathing. "I was told I'd have to be on oxygen 24/7, and perhaps it was time to slow down and retire." But she resisted. When asked why she continues to work even though others her age have since retired, Martha says it gives her something to do. "It keeps me busy and my mind active," she says. "I need to be out and about all the time. I love being with people; besides, the money comes in handy."

Martha also appreciates the opportunity to help people. "Too many times, when people reach an elderly age, they are viewed as useless and they start feeling unneeded," she points out. "Being needed is so important to elderly people."

Charles Jacobs, 79, Editorial Extraordinaire
Although Charles Jacobs retired his career as an editor and publisher of newspapers and magazines, he's still in full swing as a freelance writer. Not only has the 79-year-old published over 750 articles in publications across the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, he continues to write articles in print and, now, online.

"I published my first novel after my 'retirement,'" he points out. Charles' latest non-fiction book is "The Writer Within You: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing in Your Retirement Years." There are more books to come from Charles, and he even operates an editorial services company that offers coaching to authors, ghost writing services, and other relevant support activities.

A typical work day for Charles starts at 6:30 a.m. "I sit at my computer and process e-mail. I then begin working on the most pressing deadline of the day. Those early morning hours are precious to me -- no phones ring and no one stirs in the house," he says. He works until 5 p.m. with a break for lunch with his wife.

Although Charles is a freelance writer, you can say he hasn't retired either. "I love what I am doing," he says. After working as a business executive, he enjoys working as a journalist now. Charles is having the time of his life doing exactly what he enjoys. He has waited far too many years to begin his dream. "I longed to write creatively. At last, I have been able to do so. Frankly, I much prefer this to playing golf or participating in some other 'retirement' activity," he says.

When it comes to his age, he has no concerns. Fortunately, I run my own company, Caros Books," he explains. "I am usually flattered by the surprise people voice when I admit to [being] almost 80."

Leo Pearlstein, 89, Food Marketing Guru
Leo Pearlstein, a charming and seasoned food marketing veteran, still stays on top of his game at the age of 89. On a typical day, he comes into the office at 8:30 a.m. and goes through his e-mails. He makes a checklist of priorities before tackling more e-mails and making calls. He then meets with his team to discuss projects. "There's never a dull moment because there's usually an 'emergency' or a sudden opportunity," he says. "For example, this morning until noon, we had to make tons of calls to the management and production staff at Unwrapped, a popular show on the Food Network … it was the most tense time."

And as tense as some days get, the "legend of food public relations" remains passionate about the food retail business and his career. When asked why he hasn't retired like many of his fellow-Americans at his age, he says, "I love what I'm doing. And frankly, except for collecting old cookbooks and recipes, playing drums when I can and enjoying good music, I don't have any major hobbies. My work is my hobby."

Leo's "hobby" all began when he received a bachelor of science degree in marketing from the University of Southern California. He didn't stop there. The PR superstar later founded Lee & Associates, Inc., a public relations firm, in 1950. Over the years, the PR guru has continued to supervise all phases of the agency's operations. He has even won numerous awards for his accomplishments in marketing and merchandising. He has spearheaded programs at Pepsico, Frito Lay, and more as a consultant, too.

Fast forward decades and decades later, and he's still at it. And as for when Leo will call it quits? He's leaving that up to nature. "As long as my health is good and I enjoy what I'm doing, I don't have any desire to retire," he says.

Milt Chortkoff, 81, Dry Cleaning Superstar
Milt Chortkoff owns a very successful dry cleaning business in Burbank, CA, and shows no signs of stopping. "[Everyone] knows my age. I am not shy about it. I even have my age listed on the employee bulletin," he points out. "We are planning my 100th birthday work party already!" The 81-year-old still has a long way to go from there, and has the spirit of a young man -- he's energetic, creative, and is known for being a bit of a comedian.

He even has no-parking signs at his shop that read, "Milt & Edie's Parking Only. No Parking or You Will Be Forced to Wash Clothes." And upon walking into his business, you're greeted by popcorn, coffee, cookies and candy. Now that's service!

And wouldn't you know it, Milt has his dream job and business. He always wanted to open one that's open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year (including Sundays and holidays, when you really need those special occasion clothes), and he did it. Although the Milt and Edie's owner wakes up around 4 a.m., his day doesn't start at work. He bikes (indoors) for about 15 minutes, reads the paper and prepares his notes for the day ahead. He finally arrives at his shop around 8 a.m. to work for five hours, which includes meetings with his staff, making calls and working on projects.

Milt did retire once when he was 60 to travel the world with his wife for a year. "I had a lot of energy and needed to put it some place, so I was able to come back to work," he says. "I worked as a consultant and then bought out a dry cleaning business."

Not only is Milt excited to be fulfilling his dream every day, he likes the other benefits of working, too. "It is great to get up in the morning and continue to use my mind," he points out. "I have a wealth of knowledge being in the dry cleaning business since I was 10. I need to stay creative and put my ideas to good use. To be able to come in daily and see all of the people I work with is gratifying."

But it wasn't all roses. Milt admits he has been broke and has had to start over. "I never thought of that as a hardship [though]. It is about the challenges we all face in life," he explains. "I was able to realize early on that I can get past anything. We all can!"

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Very interesting article! And encouraging! :) :) :)
by Kaye Swain submitted on Apr 21, 2010

It's good to see others of my age keeping active. As an 82-year-old, I am always stimulated with business activity. Employed by the City of Dallas, I have reacted to the scandal affecting the Collin County District Clerk's office by placing my own name on the November ballot to fill that position. I will use my experience to bring integrity and operational honesty back to that office. And it's a great feeling now when the people at the senior centers tell me they'll vote for me. Gray Power!
by Harvey Tepfer submitted on Sep 4, 2010

It's good to see others of my age keeping active. As an 82-year-old, I am always stimulated with business activity. Employed by the City of Dallas, I have reacted to the scandal affecting the Collin County District Clerk's office by placing my own name on the November ballot to fill that position. I will use my experience to bring integrity and operational honesty back to that office. And it's a great feeling now when the people at the senior centers tell me they'll vote for me. Gray Power!
by Harvey Tepfer submitted on Sep 4, 2010

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