While some can't wait to retire, others want to keep working for as long as possible - and it might be helping them stay 'young'

Depending on your personal circumstances, retirement can be seen in a number of ways: a necessity perhaps, a luxury, or simply an inevitability.

But not everybody wants to stop working just because they've reached 'retirement age'.

EastEnders legend June Brown is a case in point. According to the Daily Mirror, the actress, who plays Dot Branning in the hit BBC soap, has recently been approached by producers to cut her hours. But despite being 88 years old, the star is having none of it (her character's currently banged up in prison for killing her son Nick, but is apparently due to be released later this year and will be as central to the storyline as ever).

She's not the only older person still clocking up hours in the showbiz world, of course. There's Bruce Forsyth, 87, and - as more glamorous examples - Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, who are both 80. Then there's the Queen, who, while she's scaled back a bit in recent years, at 89, still has a very packed schedule.

Granted, being a royal, or a successful, well-paid actor is a world away from the work most people will be familiar with, and there are plenty of jobs where retirement is far more appealing a prospect than carrying on - but if your health allows, and you enjoy your work, could sticking at it be the answer to staying young?

As Henry Ford, American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said: "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."

:: Why working keeps your brain young

"Our minds need stimulation," says renowned hypnotherapist and author Georgia Foster (www.georgiafoster.com). "They need to be stretched as much as possible. When you stop utilising parts of your mind, it learns that it's not needed.

"I think self-esteem is key to continuing to work as long as you want. Everybody wants to belong and the older generation in particular need to connect as much as possible. Loneliness can be a horrific burden and working can alleviate that."

Dr Michael Spira, medical director and GP (www.thesmartclinics.co.uk), agrees: "If retirement results in less physical and mental activity, which so often is the case, the brain may start to slow down, and this can lead to memory difficulties and confusion.

"If you have a job that you enjoy, try to hang onto it for as long as you can!"

What happens to your 'grey matter' when you retire?

"Retirement means you have to 'reinvent' yourself," says Annie Kaszina, coach and author of Do You Choose Your Dog More Carefully Than Your Husband? "For some people that works really well, for others it does not; they struggle to find a sense of meaning and purpose. They become less valuable in society's eyes. One of the questions we hear all the time is: 'What do you do?' It's a question that presupposes your worth and interests are intimately connected with your working role, not who you are.

"While the capacity for heavy physical work may decline with the years, the capacity for creative thinking does not. June Brown is a case in point. She is perfectly capable of deciding for herself when she needs to scale back. The country needs more icons like her and Bruce Forsyth in the public eye, to remind us that older just means more years on the clock. It doesn't have to mean physically or mentally infirm.

"Besides, working longer may well also save the Government money. An interesting report from the French government suggests that people who work longer are significantly less likely to suffer from dementia."


"Find things to do that make you feel happy with a sense of belonging," suggests Foster. "Connection to people is very important, as well as finding something that keeps the brain stimulated with lots of positive chemicals, such as endorphins."

"Make it your business to learn new skills and take up new hobbies, but don't just think of them as your 'little hobbies' - allow yourself to be passionate about them," advises Kaszina.

"Write a book, take up painting, do a university degree. There are plenty of things you can do where age is no barrier."

"Regular physical exercise is important," says Dr Spira. "But studies also show that activities that stimulate the brain are equally important; reading books, going to lectures, taking part in quizzes, crosswords, other puzzle games, bridge, chess, writing and charity work. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can also help keep the mind sharp."

"Set some challenging goals that will help the brain to stretch itself in healthy ways," adds Foster, who offers a new online course on self-esteem. "Start a new course or join a new group of people who will help to stimulate more confidence and a sense of belonging."