She Sings, She Dances, She Walks Faster Than You: What a 90-Year Dynamo Can Teach You About Retirement


On Jan. 1, 2011, 10,000 Baby Boomers began turning 65 every day. And that is predicted to continue every day until the end of 2030.

Doris Becker crossed that milestone—a birthday in which many people make the transition from work to retirement—25 years ago. She’s now thriving at 90 years of age—and wonders how she “ever had time to work.”

Yet she says she’s seen many smart and active people struggle to find direction and meaning when their careers come to a close. So what’s her secret?
There are actually many factors that contribute to her successful retirement. But before we explore that, it’s worth asking…

Who is Doris Becker?

Doris Becker was born on April 29, 1925—just nine days after her former employerErie Insurance was founded.

Perhaps the nearly shared birthday was a sign, because 31 years later she began working as a personal lines endorser at Erie Insurance.

“I raised my three children before I came to ERIE,” Doris says. “I decided to enter the workforce because they were older and I wanted to make money for our family. I was hired on Aug. 28, 1958. I was excited to work there and not that nervous; at the time, there were only 212 employees.” (Today, there are nearly 5,000.)

That decision proved to be the right one: Over the years, Doris formed many happy memories, made countless friends and held a variety of positions at ERIE.

So of course it was bittersweet when she retired as a commercial underwriter in 1990. But it was also a launch pad into a new life that has kept her happily busy for a quarter century and counting.

Ready to learn how this newly minted nonagenarian (definition: someone between 90 and 100 years old) keeps the pep in her step? Then read on.

Doris’s top tips for a successful retirement

  • Discover your passions before you retire. “You have to stay busy!” urges Doris. “I tell people who are about to retire to find something you like and get involved before you retire. Then you know where to spend your time when you do retire.”

    Doris was lucky enough to have a pastime she was passionate about well before her final day at Erie Insurance. At age 10, she developed a love of the theater and acting. To date, she’s been in dozens of musicals and plays—and she’s not slowing down anytime soon. In addition to appearing in roles at her local playhouse, Doris also serves on the organization’s board of directors and volunteers at the box office.

    Pursuing something you enjoy gives meaning to your Golden Years—and it can also help you live longer. Research published in the journal Psychological Science shows that having a sense of purpose helps you live longer no matter what your age.

  • Good genes matter—but still go to the doctor. “Of course good genes help—many of my relatives lived into their late 90s,” admits Doris. But that doesn’t mean you get a pass when it comes to your recommended annual checkups.

    Doris stays on top of her appointments, even when she has nothing to bring to her doctor’s attention. But as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—so make sure to visit your doctor on a regular basis to get a handle on any issues early on.
  • Stay involved in your former career or workplace. Doris remains connected to her former employer as the retiree representative on the Erie Insurance Group Employees Activities Association. In this role, she has a say in the kinds of activities and events company employees and retirees can take advantage of.

    Today, every new Erie Insurance Employee gets to meet Doris. That’s because she also gives walking tours of ERIE’s Home Office to new employees and other special visitors. (It’s not uncommon to see people half her age struggle to keep pace with her during the two-hour tour.) She enjoys getting to know new Employees—and seeing how the workplace continues to evolve.

    “Women were mostly clerks and secretaries in my day,” she explains. “That said, a lot of women did do well for themselves in the Underwriting Department. But it was still different back then. I look around now and see so many women in senior leadership positions—I think it’s great!”

    See if your former employer has any roles you can fill on a volunteer basis—or consider using your skills to fill a hole in your community. For instance, former teachers make great volunteer tutors while former businessmen and women are valuable mentors to entrepreneurs working through a startup incubator or similar organization.

  • Work your brain. “You have to challenge your mind,” says Doris, who regularly does crossword puzzles and Sudoku in addition to creating intricate crocheted and knitted pieces. Research shows she has the right idea: Findings suggest these kinds of engaging activities help stave off memory diseases.
  • Stay connected to the people in your life. Doris has three children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Whether it’s a toddler or a full-grown child, Doris loves spending time with all of them.

    And she may get more than enjoyment from these interactions: One study shows that social connections can help improve your odds of survival by 50 percent.

Use Doris’ advice to enjoy a longer, happier and healthier retirement. And stay tuned for more, as she’s on record for saying she plans to make it to 100!

Another important aspect of retirement is financial security. Erie Insurance has a variety of products to help you achieve a secure retirement. Talk to an Erie Insurance Agent to learn more.

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