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Depending on when you were born, you’re eligible for full Social Security benefits at some point in your mid-60s. But does that mean you should retire then? Is there such a thing as an ideal retirement age?

Aside from considering your financial situation, retirement “is a very individualized decision that has a lot to do with a person’s health status,” says Dr. Swapnil Raman-Luhadiya, a family medicine physician who sees adults at Well by Kaiser Permanente at Friendship Heights, a clinic in Chevy Chase.

Raman-Luhadiya lists some of what needs to be considered from a medical perspective: high blood pressure, chronic pain, diabetes, fatigue, limited mobility.

“People should also check in with their emotional health,” she advises. “If thoughts of going in to work trigger anxiety or negativity, that can prevent you from functioning at your highest level and may be a sign to step back.”

The average retirement age is 64.7 for men and 62 for women, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. That said, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected in 2019 that 30.2% of people ages 65 to 74 will be working in 2026, compared with 17.5% in 1996. The rate for workers age 75 and older that same year is projected to be 10.8%, compared with 4.7% in 1996.

Raman-Luhadiya cites research that links working beyond retirement age to health benefits, including more mental stimulation and social engagement, and fewer instances of cancer, heart disease and dementia.


One 2015 study of 83,000 older adults over the course of 15 years, published in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal, found that people who worked past age 65 were about three times more likely to report being in good health and roughly half as likely to have serious health problems.

“As you think about retirement, it’s also important to think about how you access health care and how that will change if you retire,” Raman-Luhadiya says. “Will you have the same coverage and be able to see your physicians and specialists, or will you need to shop for and compare plans available based on your age and employment status? Enjoying a long and healthy life in your retirement is important, so make sure you’ll have access to high-quality health care that fits your lifestyle.”

Keep in mind that working doesn’t require a steady paycheck, Raman-Luhadiya says. If you want to say goodbye to your current job but still feel an itch to be productive, consider a part-time gig or volunteer for a meaningful cause.


“Finding your joy and sense of purpose—what really makes you happy—is quite important,” Raman-Luhadiya says. “That transcends the topic of retirement.”