Who needs to retire when you love your job? Dr. Howard Tucker is celebrating a historic milestone this week. He recently turned 100 years old and has practiced medicine for 75 years. The neurologist has now earned the title of “World’s Oldest Practicing Doctor” from the Guiness Book of World Records.
To be fair, Tucker recently stopped seeing patients, but he still teaches medical residents at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where he works twice a week.
“I look upon retirement as the enemy of longevity,” Tucker said during a recent video call. He is determined to keep up with the latest technology and has learned to navigate a smartphone and computer, unlike some of his colleagues.
He doesn’t see the value in not going to work.
“I think that to retire, one can face potential shriveling up and ending in a nursing home. It’s fun staying alive and working… It’s delightful work. Every day I learn something new.”
He has lived through countless world events that nearly cost him his life, including the Great Depression, World War II, and now the pandemic.
One of his relatives recently gave him the “gift of COVID” when she hugged him during his 100th birthday party, but he experienced mild symptoms and recovered in just a few weeks.
He also broke his neck while skiing in the 1980s but somehow came out “intact,” he says.
A documentary crew is even making a film called “What’s Next?” about his life.
He is full of advice on how to build a successful career in medicine and lead a long, healthy life.
“Heredity and family history of longevity is a healthy start. However, it must be supported by moderation of nutrition, alcohol, and happiness,” Tucker explained in his Guinness World Records entry.
Tucker clearly has good genes to work with. His mother lived to age 84 and his father to 96. Tucker has managed to avoid all the major illnesses that tend to beset adults later in life, including heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
“I recognize how I’ve been blessed with that,” he said.
He never smoked, only drinks alcohol on the weekends, and enjoys everything in moderation. He also exercised throughout his life, swimming, jogging, and skiing regularly. His family recently banned him from hitting the slopes after his neck injury, so he decided to take up snowshoeing instead.
In terms of retirement, Tucker acknowledged that some jobs are just too physically taxing that some people have no choice but to retire after a certain number of years. There is also emotional stress and pressure to retire, especially for nurses. However, he never saw the appeal in retiring.
“I don’t understand it. I don’t understand golfing three days a week,” Tucker said. “I’m going to caution (people): If they retire from their work, they should at least do something as a hobby, whether it be communal work or self-hobbies… you need a stimulus for the brain daily.”
After earning his medical degree back in 1947, he has seen many of his colleagues call it quits over the years, mainly due to the change in technology, but Tucker is determined to keep up with the latest trends.
“The whole world is full of computers, and they live by computers. If I want to stay in this world, I’m going to do it,” he said.
He also credits his grandson with helping him learn about the latest apps and devices.
Tucker encourages everyone to keep learning. He even passed the bar exam in the 1960s because he was interested in the subject.
Happiness is also the secret to a long, successful life.
“You have to be happy in your job and in your domestic life,” Tucker said.
And he remains an eternal optimist. “I think I’ll live forever, knowing that it’s not real. But I feel that way. I never think of death,” he said. “You die once, but you live daily… focus on the living.”