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Can You Work Past Age 100?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 09, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A lot has changed since attorney Bentley Kassal began working long ago in New York City.

Computers? Forget about it. The ball point pen hadn't been invented yet. Not only did women not practice law, they didn't even have the right to vote when Kassal was born.

Kassal, 100, has seen a lot, and that is one of the secrets to his long life. He has worked as a legislator, judge, and attorney and has been an active sportsman and photographer. He goes to work at Skadden Arps every day.

"I am enjoying every bit of it because every day I get a new challenge and I like being challenged -- whether it be in the law or whether it be on the sports field," he said.

So 100 Is the New 90

Kassal is one of many lawyers working well beyond the traditional retirement age. As the New York Times recently headlined, they are: "Senior Counsel, Very Senior Counsel."

According to the newspaper, more than 10 percent of the New York State Bar Association are lawyers over 65 years old. Some, like Kassal, are working into their 90's.

S. Hazard Gillespie, who is 106, doesn't practice law anymore. But he still commutes 80 minutes to his office at Davis Polk & Wardwell and does volunteer work.

"It makes you feel that you're useful, but it's usefulness to the community," he said. "Certainly, that's what stirs me."

Work Until Death

The ABA Journal calls it the "Work-Until-Death-Ethic" -- based on the idea that retiring early may contribute to early death.

A decade ago, studies showed that 55-year-old retirees die sooner than 65-year-old retirees. Although various factors have caused researchers to look again at the evidence, the general conclusion is that work is good for you.

"It may not apply to everybody, but we think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives," said Chenkai Wu, lead author of the study published last year in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Of course, relatively few people work as long as Kassal and Gillespie. You have to live that long first.

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