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Inside E Street

John Paul Stevens Discusses Longevity

Retired justice wonders if he "jumped the gun" on retiring

Life expectancy is at an all-time high. Americans are living longer, working longer and staying active longer.  It is fundamentally changing the nature of who makes up the workforce.  We talk with two prominent examples: John Paul Stevens, whose passion is the law and who last year at age 90, retired from the intellectually demanding job of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and Betty White, who will be celebrating her 90th birthday in a matter of months but continues to enjoy a renaissance in her show business career – a hit TV show, commercials and as the highest-rated guest host last season on Saturday Night Live (not to mention a new book, her involvement in animal welfare causes and as spokesperson for AARP).

See also: Betty White on career longevity.


John Paul Stevens served 35 years as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the third-longest tenure in the Court's history. When he retired at age 90 last year, only one other justice - Oliver Wendell Holmes - had been active on the high court at that age.  Stevens is out with a new book, Five Chiefs, timed for the new court term.  He looks back at his relationship with the five Supreme Court Chief Justices he knew.

Stevens tells Inside E Street's Lark McCarthy that one particular moment during a major case in 2010 — when he had trouble reading from his dissent — got him thinking more seriously about retirement. Looking back a year later, Stevens, now 91 and in good health, wonders whether he may have "jumped the gun a little." The retired justice is but one prominent example of a longevity trend in this country: people living longer and working far longer than their parents or grandparents ever did or could have even imagined.

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