I peered into my clothes closet the other day and had one of those epiphanies people my age sometimes have about the passage of time.
I counted 12 pairs of pants hanging neatly in a row and I realized, suddenly, that I probably have enough to last another 20 or 30 years. If I take really good care of them, and also of myself, my most durable pants and I will live out our lives together.
When I shared this revelation with my best friend, who is also over sixty, she looked stricken. “Are you okay?” she asked warily. “Never better,” I answered. “I’m taking a spinning class now - pedaling for ten miles a day on a stationary bike without really going anywhere. It’s doing wonders for my heart and leg muscles.”
Okay, so maybe I won’t always pull on spandex bike shorts. But counting pants is one way to face mortality in a glass-is-half-full kind of way. I could be sad that I don’t really have to buy more trousers, or I could happily redirect my pants budget to something else - like the new roof going up on our house, with a 25-year guarantee. (Who needs more, really?)
Or I could save up for Medicare Part B insurance, which I eventually will need when I retire. But like a lot of baby boomers who have seen their 401K’s rise and fall, I don’t plan to retire any time soon, because I want - well okay, I need - workplace benefits.
I’m not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, 18.8 percent of Americans ages 65 or older - nearly 9 million people - reported being employed full or part-time in 2016. That’s a dramatic increase over May 2000, when just 12.8 percent of that age group in America were still holding jobs.
Like my pants supply, that statistic can be seen as either bad or good news. Bad, if you want to golf or garden every day. Good, if you want to keep working.
And here’s the thing about keeping a full-time job past retirement age. I’m never lonely because I start and end every day with co-workers I like. Research shows that loneliness and isolation can increase the risk of premature death.
So here are two things I’m grateful for: I enjoy working, at least most of the time, and I have enough pants to wear every day to the office. Indefinitely.