Working Longer May Benefit Your Health

The scientific research is inconclusive, though it tends to tilt toward “yes.” This is particularly pronounced among people who find work fulfilling in the first place, who tend to be office workers, teachers and others whose workplace is not, say, a factory or a construction site.

More so than people in most previous generations, baby boomers are continuing to work past their early 60s, often well beyond. Sometimes, this means delaying retirement from a longtime job, but it can instead involve some kind of bridge job, part-time employment or self-employment. It turns out that, these days, older Americans who retire — in the sense of completely withdrawing from the paid labor force — are increasingly in the minority.

“What is the benefit of work? Activation of the brain and activation of social networks may be critical,” Nicole Maestas, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said in an interview.

If the engagement and connections from a job — as well as the income — can contribute to a healthier older population, the implication is that policy makers should make it easier for older workers to engage in paid work. “This does not mean politicians should force people to ‘work until they die,’” Mr. Heller-Sahlgren said. “They should remove disincentives to working.”

Adding a piece to the puzzle is research conducted about AARP Experience Corps, a nonprofit enterprise run by AARP that brings people age 50 and over into elementary schools. The project started in five cities in 1995 and has since expanded to 20 metropolitan areas. And in a series of studies, volunteers found physical benefits from getting to and from school, as well as cognitive gains from interacting with children