By Claire Zillman
May 17, 2017

In February, the New York Times ran a story titled “More Women in Their 60s and 70s Are Having ‘Way Too Much Fun’ to Retire.” A month later, the Guardian published a similar take: “Number of women working past 70 in U.K. doubles in four years.” That article determined that the end of mandatory retirement requirements is keeping women in the workforce, and that a lack of retirement savings is redoubling the effect. But it also found that women continue to work simply because they want to.

I was reminded of both those articles as I read a story published Monday about Dr. Brenda Milner, a professor of psychology in the department of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal, who, at 98, still conducts her groundbreaking research.

“People think because I’m 98 years old I must be emerita,” she says. “Well, not at all. I’m still nosy, you know, curious.”

More than a half century ago, Milner changed the course of brain science when she—then a newly minted Ph.D.—identified the specific brain organ that is crucial to memory formation. More than six decades later, she’s made some professional accommodations befitting a senior senior researcher. She limits her time in the office to three days a week and only works with postgraduates—not graduate students. She explains: “Graduate students need to know you’ll be around for five years or so, and well…”

She continues working, because, as the Times puts its, she sees no reason not to. The institutions she’s affiliated with have not asked her to step down. She has funding and a pressing project: investigating how the healthy brain’s intellectual left hemisphere coordinates with its more aesthetic right one in thinking and memory.

Plus, her office is too convenient to not stop in. “I live very close; it’s a 10-minute walk up the hill,” she said. “So it gives me a good reason to come in regularly.”

 

@clairezillman

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