Dame Judi Dench was in the news the other day giving her views on retirement. This is nothing new. Almost every time she’s featured in a newspaper or magazine, the subject comes up. I must say if ever I’m lucky enough to interview her, I’ll never ask: “And do you ever plan to retire?” because I’m sure it would irritate her.

She feels passionate about keeping on working and frequently says: “retirement is not a word used in my house”.

I love her. As you know, I’m seriously keen on us all making the effort to stay as young as possible for as long as possible, and she is not only my personal role model, but I’ve designated her the living patron saint of positive ageing.

Of course, those people who are lucky enough to forge careers doing what they enjoy, are less likely to crave retirement. I have to admit I come into that category. But I do realise, obviously, that masses of adults are unable to make a living at activities they love and need to find work in other areas in order to pay the rent or the mortgage, and provide for their families.

However, I do think that even when individuals are desperate to stop doing their long-term job – and sometimes are simply not fit enough to continue – it’s a good idea for them to replace it with a different and definite schedule rather than get in the habit of living purely for leisure. Most of us can no longer consider that as an option anyway, as we can’t afford it, but even for those who can, I genuinely believe it’s detrimental to replace all those productive, stimulating working hours with a lifestyle where you have little structure and drift through your days doing less and less.

I remember, 15 years ago, when one of our friends retired from medicine with a plan simply to play some golf and potter in his garden, everything seemed hunky dory for a while but before long he became doddery, obsessed with the cost of living and the state of his knees.

In fact, this clever and competent man seemed slightly pathetic. When we met in a local restaurant for a meal, it was obvious how much he had changed. He was just no fun anymore. He didn’t have dementia, by the way. He just slowed up – big time. I felt very sorry for his wife because this obviously impacted on her too.

Now, I’m not saying everyone who takes it easy in retirement deteriorates to the same degree, but it’s all too easy to age quickly if there’s no real purpose in your life.

Sigmund Freud said: “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness”. I don’t think many of us would disagree with that.

And there are physical health benefits to working longer. A study of 3,000 people published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2016 reported that working even one year beyond retirement age was associated with a 9% to 11% lower risk of dying.

However, continuing in employment is not just about longevity it’s about quality of life. I remember talking to a man about this when he came to deliver a washing machine. He was fit looking and upbeat, and when he opened his mouth to speak, he had a very posh accent.

Apparently, he’d been a boss in a global corporation but when he retired – which he could more than afford to do – he’d started to feel useless and miserable. Also, he confided: “Happy hour began to get earlier and earlier – and I realised that was a very slippery slope!”

But why did he take a job as a delivery driver? He said he’d considered various possibilities but liked the “weight-lifting” aspect of handling white goods, and that it was better than a gym membership. He also enjoyed meeting new people, and most of all loved the fact that he never needed to think about work once he had left it for the day.

I was full of admiration for him. You could see he was good at his job and popular with his colleagues and he’d found a solution to his disenchantment with retirement.

Since then, I’ve met many people who have abandoned their previous careers to train as teachers, or become funeral directors, florists, counsellors, or bus drivers. There are far more job opportunities for mid-life to older people than you might think. All these individuals told me that they liked to be busy and also felt more secure because they had money coming in rather than having to rely on savings and a state pension.

A friend of mine said recently: “I never use the word ‘retirement’ because to me it sounds as if I’ve retreated from life itself, and that’s the opposite of what I want to do.”

I couldn’t agree more.