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Unemployed at 83: "Retirement is Dead"

Last Updated Apr 29, 2010 1:45 PM EDT

Gloria Davis is 83-years-old, but she's quick to say that she's not retired. She's unemployed and frustrated about it.

"Retirement is dead," says the svelte and perfectly coiffed Los Angeles resident. "But people see my age on a job application and think I'm too old. They think, 'My God, she could die at any time!' It's incredibly difficult to find a job at my age."

Davis, out-of-work for a year, says she's given up on the job search. She's decided to go into business for herself and become a "motivational speaker." What's she motivated to talk about? Raising the retirement age for Social Security. People shouldn't retire until they're at least 70, she says. And even then, they ought to keep working if they're healthy.

"How long can you travel? How many times can you golf?" she asks. "People are living longer, feeling better. They should keep feeding into Social Security so we can add into the system and make sure there's some money left for the younger folks."


Is she worried that this is an unpopular thought among retirees some 20 years her junior? Not at all. She figures those kids are just too naive to know what's good for them. Retiring is a ticket to boredom, illness and death, she maintains.

Davis says she worked in the medical field for some 20 years before branching off to produce beauty pageants and television shows. That medical experience, which started in geriatrics, convinced her that retirees get sick because they feel useless and bored. Patients came into the New York clinic where she worked as a pathologist complaining of aches and pains that didn't have a medical root, she says. Their complaints were often particularly severe and inexplicable when they'd lost a spouse.

"They had nothing to do, so they'd just begin to fade away," she said. "People need to be busy. They need to have a goal -- a purpose."

Some academic research says that there's a positive correlation between health and working when you're old. But it's unclear whether older workers are healthier because they're working, or if they're working because they're healthier. If Davis has her way, people may well find out.

"Aging is not falling apart and you are just dead," she said. "There is a life there. There is so much you can do."