Keep on working into old age for the good of your health says top doctor

Prof Dame Sally Davies will tell those aged 50 to 70 that they are better off staying in work, or else taking up new hobbies to keep physically and mentally active in retirement.

The chief medical officer, who is 67, said she had no plans to retire, as she urged others to follow suit.

Her annual report on the state of the public’s health will urge people not to slow down the pace of life as they hit their 60s.

The report is expected to suggest that people who remain in paid employment past retirement age or involved in community and voluntary work improve their chances of staying healthier for longer.

Dame Sally will say: “People are living longer than ever and so retirement presents a real opportunity for baby boomers to be more active than ever before. For many people it is a chance to take on new challenges, it is certainly not the start of a slower pace of life it once was.”

She said staying in work was one way to boost health – but that taking up new activities on retirement was another way to boost the health.

“Staying in work, volunteering or joining a community group can make sure people stay physically and mentally active for longer. The health benefits of this should not be underestimated.”

By 2020, a third of British workers will be aged over 50, estimates show.

More than three quarters of people aged between 50 and pension age are still in active employment, along with 12 per cent of those over pension age, which is 62 for women and 65 for men.

The report will say that while many pensioners enjoy the benefits of retirement, in many it brings feelings of social isolation.

Dame Sally has previously caused controversy with strict advice, counselling drinkers to “do as I do” and think about the risks of cancer before having a glass of wine.

Last month she urged parents to stop children from helping themselves to snacks from the fridge, in a bid to tackle the obesity crisis.

On Monday health watchdogs published advice, saying GPs should encourage widows and divorcees to take up singing and dancing to stave off dementia and stay physically healthy.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said more should be done to prevent loneliness in retirement.

The guidance from Nice says family doctors should be told to offer “tailored community-based physical activity programmes” to older people most “at risk of a decline in their independence and well being”.

Research suggests that social isolation increases the risk of dementia, while more active lifestyles have been shown to protect against a host of diseases and the advance of frailty.

The new quality standard from Nice urges doctors to identify those – such as the recently bereaved, divorced or retired – who might lose opportunities to socialise.

It also says GPs should target those who have recently had to give up driving, and those who are caring for others as those who might not be getting the chance to take part in social activities.

Doctors should offer such patients a range of activities, the guidance suggests.

Dancing and swimming clubs, singing programmes run by choirs, volunteering and helping children with reading in schools are all singled out as hobbies which could prevent isolation.

In October the pop star Phil Collins announced plans to come out of retirement.

The 65-year-old former Genesis frontman will play five nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall next summer as well as dates in Cologne and Paris.

The former Genesis drummer officially retired in 2002.

But Collins, who has previously spoken about his battle with the bottle following a divorce fight with his third wife – with whom he later got back together – told a press conference that retirement was “a funny word”.

He said: “I stopped work because I wanted to be a dad at home. As bad luck would have it, as soon as I retired, my family split up.

“I didn’t have anyone to go home to. That’s why I started drinking.”

But the drummer and singer said of his retirement: “I’ve changed my mind.

“I’m living with my young kids. They want me to go out on the road and do my thing, and why not?”