Forced to retire at 65? He wasn’t having any of that! 

By  Henry Rose Lee

Forced to retire at 65? He wasn’t having any of that!

Do you want to keep on working into your 70s, 80s, and beyond? That’s what American scientist John Goodenough did.

Born in 1922 and dying just short of his 101st birthday in June 2023, he was the oldest ever recipient of a Nobel prize, winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2019 when he was 97!

His co-winners were Stanley Whittingham (UK) and Akira Yoshino (Japan), who were 77 and 71 years old.

They didn’t win their prize for work done in the distant past.

The Nobel Prize Winners

❤️ Whittingham built the first lithium battery.

❤️ Goodenough made the battery less volatile (less likely to burst into flames), more powerful and smaller.

❤️ Yoshino eliminated the pure lithium, so the battery included even safer lithium ions.

At the Nobel ceremony, the academy said, ‘This rechargeable battery laid the foundation of wireless electronics such as mobile phones & laptops.’

Thanks to the work of these “older” men, lithium-ion batteries are in everything from smartphones to pacemakers.

As for Goodenough, he worked right up to his death.

The Story

Having studied maths & physics at Yale, he ended up as head of the Inorganic Chemistry Lab at Oxford University, where he was forced to retire at 65.

He wasn’t having that. He moved back to the US where he spent the next 30 years continuing his research into batteries at the University of Texas.

His final work was on “super batteries” which aim to store & use clean energy.

When interviewed after his Nobel win, Goodenough said he was delighted he hadn’t chosen to retire at 65, and added ‘Live to 97 and you can do anything.’

The Proof

Goodenough, Whittingham, and Yoshino are proof that age doesn’t stop you working effectively. It doesn’t stop you innovating. It doesn’t stop you doing good in the world.

Isn’t it about time that working practices which have been in place for over 100 years get modernised, or at least revised?

Why do we have to retire when we get to a certain age?

Too many workers aged 50-64, are encouraged or pressurised to leave work, despite ageism laws which guard against them being forced out before they are ready.

We do need a steady flow of workers out and workers in. But I don’t get why companies aren’t working harder to keep older folk who are physically & psychologically focused on continuing to deliver valuable work.

Older workers often have higher emotional intelligence, a strong work ethic, and an increased ability to think critically (which comes with age and experience). Isn’t that exactly what organisations need?

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About the author

Henry Rose Lee

Henry is a recognised authority on Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers in the workplace. She helps businesses to recruit, engage and retain their younger employees, and helps individuals to ignite their talents and carve out an outstanding career, whatever their age.

Through her keynote speeches, workshops and coaching, you will understand the evolution of leadership in what is sometimes called ‘the Shift Age’, so you can avoid common pitfalls and help your organisation (and yourself) to thrive.

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