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North Carolina woman, 86, a much beloved teacher

April 3, 2013

It's not unusual for older adults to keep working past the traditional retirement age, but one North Carolina woman has done so in an unusual way. Millicent Gordon, 86, is a music teacher at Western Youth Institution - the only youth prison in the Tar Heel State, NPR reports.

Given that prisons are often considered among some of the most difficult places to work, it may seem strange for an octogenarian to be employed by one, but despite the fact some of her students are violent offenders, she says she's not bothered by it. She points to her non-judgmental approach to teaching as the reason she's been so successful. 

"I try very hard not to be judgmental and offer these guys understanding," she told NPR. "They desperately need someone to listen to them."

Today, Gordon teaches three classes a day, certainly no small feat for someone who entered senior living long ago. Her commitment to staying mentally and socially engaged should serve as an example of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Any older adults considering a similar route, whether it be volunteering or heading back to the workforce, are certainly not alone.

Recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about one-third of Americans between 65 and 70 are still employed, while about 7 percent of those 75 and older have stayed on the job. The results mesh with previous findings from a Gallup poll. Researchers discovered that the average retirement age is about 67, which is an increase of about seven years from the mid-1990s. With the financial and health benefits a working retirement offers, the results do not come as much of a surprise.