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This Older Adult Redefines ‘Retirement’

November 2, 2016   |   Alliance for Aging Research Team   |   Healthy Aging

There’s a common perception that once people reach “retirement age” they assume a new role in society. Maybe move to Florida, slow down, drop out of the everyday activities that they did for much of their lives.

But that perception is not in tune with reality.

The reality is that more and more older adults are growing increasingly active in their later years. A recent article in Stat offers a very revealing fact: “Workers over 55 represent the only age group in which participation in the labor force is growing.”

Overall, the older adult population is living longer and staying healthier.

As a result, they are working and volunteering in greater numbers.

Phyllis Pricer is a prime example of someone who fits this reality. She is a 73-year-old (mostly) lifelong resident of Washington, D.C. To describe her life as active is an understatement.

Among her many activities include working with kids at a nearby hospital and participating in community forums focused on older adult issues.

Phyllis says that older adults are often viewed as less valued as they get older. But this could not be further from the truth.

“I could never just sit on my hands and do nothing,” says Phyllis. “Older adults are still vital, and we still want to give. Many of us are involved in communities, and we do volunteer work, and all of it is just phenomenal. I am proud to be a senior citizen.”

Phyllis in general has never been one to sit on her hands. Throughout her life, she’s been constantly learning, creating, and working as an entrepreneur, a citizen, and a woman.

Phyllis grew up in northeast Washington and lives in the same house in which she spent her childhood. She was part of the post-World War II generation who came up during a time of great change.

She also grew up in a family of strong, successful women.

“Many women in my family were pioneers. My grandmother owned a grocery store in St. Louis. Two female family members were lawyers, in an era when female lawyers were a rarity. And my mom was an independent woman,” says Phyllis.

Phyllis drew inspiration from the women in her family, even as she experienced the challenges women in the professional world faced in the 1960s and ’70s.

In addition to being a single mother for much of her life, Phyllis also started a small business, which she built into a successful enterprise. Through her middle decades, she worked to overcome challenges and bucked long-held societal notions to become one of the millions of women from the Boomer generation who transformed the American professional world.

Phyllis gave her up business in her early 60s and moved on to the new world of “retirement.” But as she can tell you, she never really retired.

For the past 10-plus years, she’s worked as a volunteer at children’s hospitals in the area. In the professional world, she’s served as a consultant for various businesses and was trained as a paralegal. She also learned about hypnotherapy as well as the art of Jin Shin Jyutsu, using these skills to help others improve themselves spiritually.

For Phyllis, her older adult years have been her opportunity to constantly improve and grow as a person.

And she says that is true of many of her peers.

“We have so much to give as seniors, with our knowledge and experience. There is so much that we have to offer in our communities still,” she says. “We have been through many transitions since World War II, and we’ve come through. While there’s been some acknowledgement that older adults provide value, there are many more who need to acknowledge it.”

Phyllis also looks forward to the next goals she hopes to accomplish, just as she’s done all her life.

“I’ve had a wonderful life, and I still have to a lot to give,” she says. “I believe just being in the place where you are every day offers opportunities to do great things. I am trying to be the best person I can be. I do feel the best is yet to come.”

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