Retire? Not these hardworking seniors

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Call it a generational work ethic, of being instilled at a young age with the true meaning of labor, and the value of putting one's nose to the grindstone in order to get ahead.

Or pin it on the pure love of the job and the passion for doing something that continues to delight.

Whether it's their own business or a profession they've long adored, there are more and more people ditching the condo in Florida and days on the golf course to not only work past retirement but way past retirement. Think 80-plus, or close to it.

Daniel Kaplan, 85, of Mamaroneck calls his fellow worker bees "relevant octogenarians," and those living in Westchester and Rockland don't have to look hard to find one. They're dispensing wisdom at a law office, helping customers amid the aisles of a cluttered bookstore, meeting with designers to find the best fashions, administering holistic medicine in an effort to make others feel good, and teaching ballet to adults.

What's the secret for staying on — and staying young. Here's what these "non-retirees" say keeps them going.

MaryJane Denzer, 80

Occupation: Owner, MaryJane Denzer, a luxury designer boutique in White Plains.

Years on the job: 40.

Work schedule: Six full days a week; sometimes seven.

Why she's not retiring: "I don't believe in retirement unless you have no other choice," says Denzer, who lives in White Plains. "In my opinion, when you retire you lose your enthusiasm and energy. It's like being dead. You don't have a reason to get up in the morning. I love waking up and going somewhere and accomplishing something."

What she loves about working: "Everything. Fashion has always been my first love and I love being immersed in it." She walks to work every day, about a block and a half. In addition she still does all the buying for the store and travels to Europe three or four times a year.

Secret to staying young: "Without question working keeps me young," she says. "Work is not really like work for me; I'm one of those very fortunate people who found out at a very young age what I wanted to do and I did it. I still derive as much pleasure and enthusiasm from it as I did 40 years ago. And I'm still learning something new every day."

Jack Dunnigan, 79, Nyack

Occupation: Owner, Pickwick Books, Nyack.

Years on the job: 39.

Work schedule: 10-11 hours a day, six to seven days a week; "When it's your own business you're always working," he says.

Why he's not retiring: "I enjoy what I do."

What he loves about work: "I'm a voracious reader and have always had an interest in books. I also like this village a lot and really enjoy the people," he says.

Secret to staying young: Keeping active. He walks to work each day (he lives upstairs and says stairs are key to keeping him in shape), and also gardens and hikes. He believes the strong work ethic his parents instilled in him — they owned a tavern in Haverstraw for many years and worked long hours — also helps. At the end of the day, though, he says "you're only as good as your health," and "thank God, mine has been good."

Daniel Kaplan, 85

Occupation: Senior counsel, Dorf & Nelson, Rye.

How long on this job: One month (formerly president of the 92nd Street Y in New York; served on their board for 54 years); with various jobs at other law firms, international brokerage companies, nonprofit organizations and charities. "I've been working since 1952."

Work schedule: He doesn't have set hours, but generally works 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, though he admits he often goes home and does more work at night.

Why he's not retiring: Its part of his work ethic and what he's used to. "My outlook about working is very much generational, I think," he explains. "Post World War II, we're almost neurotic about work." He also says the word "work" is unimportant; you're lucky if you love what you do, which he does. "If you're not a golfer or hobbyist, work is a Godsend," he says.

What he loves about work: It's always interesting, he's always learning something new, and it keeps him busy. "If my wife were here, she'd tell you if I wasn't working I'd be a basket case," he says. He also loves the the interpersonal relationships that help keep him young and engaged.

Secret to staying young: "Saying yes to any challenge. If you stay relevant, you are relevant," he stresses.


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