“I gotta keep working. As long as I can. As long as they let me. And as long as they help me up the stairs.” – Rosa Finnegan
Rosa Finnegan is 100 years old plus two months, and she is an employee at the Vita Needle Company in Needham, MA. Yes, an employee. Rosa is an extraordinary woman who has for 15 years worked 7-hour days at a remarkable factory where the median age is 74. Yes, 74.
Rosa is typically found stamping many thousands of needles a day with an electric stamping machine her co-workers have named the Rosa-matic. “Anything they give me to do that I can still do, that’s what I do,” she said last week at a True North lifelong learning event celebrating a new book about Vita Needle, Retirement on the Line.
Why would Rosa and other elderly people choose to work in retirement? That is the question that author Caitrin Lynch explores in her book. The answers are common threads that run through this book and Vita Needle and North Hill: social engagement and purpose.
Lynch is a professor of anthropology at Olin College, one of North Hill’s Needham neighbors along with the Vita Needle factory. In her study of work and aging she discovered that work during retirement years provides much more than just a paycheck.
She found that work lets people define themselves. Work helps older adults – who often feel invisible or unrecognized – find their value. It provides rich connections to people of all ages. Work gives us membership in a group, a family; it helps us matter.
40-something Dave Shumway says “It’s fun, it’s social and it’s productive.”
Joe Reddington, 82, says he loves the people at Vita Needle. “And the being busy. And using the brain to work out problems.” As Bob O’Mara, Rosa’s 76-year-old co-workers put it, if he couldn’t work “I’d miss the people. And the chance to feel meaningful and busy and contributing.”
At North Hill we believe (and research by Lynch and many others backs us up) that the most important components to living longer, healthier and better lives are social engagement and having a purpose.
Social engagement and a purpose are the foundation of PurposeFULL Living, the umbrella philosophy that guides pretty much everything we do at North Hill. Whatever a resident’s purpose is, the North Hill community is ready to support that, through classes, amenities, activities, coaching, or connecting you with “off campus” opportunities and resources to pursue your passion.
Some North Hill residents head off to office jobs each day. Others fill our halls with unique and beautiful art. Others mentor, volunteer, counsel or coach. They’re engaged with the greater community and filled with purpose.
Johnny Paycheck once sang of work as having long hours and little rewards. I’m proud that at North Hill and Vita Needle, we’re helping older adults sing a new tune: “Take this job and love it.”
To see photos from this event, visit www.Facebook.com/NorthHill.org.
What do you think? Are you working in retirement years, for a paycheck or as a volunteer? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.