Song in their hearts

After 20 years in a second career she had retired again. But Alberta Hunter quickly became bored, as many active people do, and at age 82 resumed her first love, as a blues singer, enchanting audiences regularly in packed houses for the next seven years. Her listeners responded to the happiness she projected as a performer.

As mandatory retirement ages rise or are removed altogether, many Americans are beginning to work longer, though most are in less visible careers than Miss Hunter, who passed on last week. Some are doing as she did: retiring from one line of work straight into another career. These trends are expected to accelerate in the decades ahead as the number of young people in the labor force declines and their elders more routinely break the limitations ascribed to advanced calendar years.

One entertainer who showed the way to Miss Hunter, and to younger Americans, was Eubie Blake, pianist and composer of musically sophisticated ragtime pieces as well as pop songs. In 1969 at age 86 he returned from retirement to the concert stage and performed before enthusiastic college audiences for the next 12 years.

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