Boomers Are Changing Retirement

Boomers Are Changing Retirement

So “What’s Next?” That’s the question being asked by many Americans of all cultures age 60 to 70, the upper half of the Boomer generation. While observing their parents, essentially duplicating the retirement or non-working model of their grandparents, Boomers are deciding the being put “out to pasture” roadmap is not a direction many will be following.

The week of September 24, thisyear, was designated as Active Aging Week. Initiated by the International Council on Aging to promote healthy lifestyle benefits and age friendly wellness activities, it is also a good time to explore the new positive direction and perspectives Boomers are generating regarding aging in America. The generation that took on civil rights, feminism, anti-war and sexism will not be changing ageism. And the first place that starts is refashioning the traditional notions regarding aging in America.

“One of the exciting things happening right now with retirement is there are so many new options available,” indicates Khristine Rodgers, president of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors in an interview on The Active Generation television series for boomers. “With all the options that we know, not only are we talking about but I think now showing support for, there’s not one prescription as to how we should retire anymore,” she adds.

Two terms rising from a study of retirement by Merrill-Lynch are aiding boomers to frame a different retirement future. “The Longevity Bonus,” meant to illustrate the additional contributions and volunteer assistance non-profits may receive from boomers working and living longer. Boomers are seizing the term asdefining as they will be living longer, the “forever” part of “forever young” will be later than sooner, so the new longevity can be done their way.

The second term “The Freedom Zone” is exactly that – what Boomers will do with those 2000 hours freed from career work. The Boom has always been a future-forward thinking generation and now viewing “The Freedom Zone” as a new time to recover dreams long on hold and to sample new life options. Former retirement coach Madeline Hughes observes, “Sometimes we talked about them (clients) having an extra 2,000 hours, what am I going to do with it, how am I going to use this time.” She continues, “So I think it’s important to set someboundaries, because people around you, your family, your friends, suddenly you have all this time in the world and people can encroach on your time. So I think it’s helpful to have some idea of what you’re going to do and have some flexibility within that basic framework.” The Merrill Lynch Retirement study also indicates that 55 percent of the respondents view retirement as a fresh period in life, not the epilogue or credits roll, so change is cool with them.

Founded by Marc Freedman, the Encore movement is also facilitating this rethinking of aging in America. The Encore view is people in later life can be an essential resource who can contribute to creating better futures for generations of young people. Toward this end, Encore challenges traditional thinking regarding aging to allow fresh perspectives to be developed whichcan in turn facilitate personal growth and have new impact on society. created The Purpose Prize to evidence that older Americans are a largely untapped andlittle resourced treasure of solutions to a myriad of today’s most pressing social challenges. In the decade since the inception of the Purpose Prize, they have received an excess of 10,000 nominations which led to just under 100 recipients in awarding more than $5 million to support additional work of social innovation and creativity in the latter years of life. Persons of color in multicultural communities have long been among the recipients of the prize, now being administered by AARP. Another outreach program, The Encore Prize: Gen2Gen Challenge, will award two $50,000 prizes to organizations or individuals of any age with new ideas for engaging older adults in improving the lives of children and youth.

These are the types of actions and activities at work that lead to changing the old perceptions of aging. In Denver, the organization Boomers Leading Change and their association with AmeriCorps senior corps are among the leaders of the Encore vision in the Rocky Mountainwest.
Surveys are also indicating more than 80 percent of Boomers prefer “aging in place”, in their present homes or other residential options in lieu of typical senior retirement communities.  Also, the term “downsizing” is currently morphing into “rightsizing.” Perhaps the present home continues to be right, the place where key family memorabilia,
materials and equipment for hobbies and pastimes, along with artifacts from careers remain present. The things we need that in many places cannot fit into a smaller retirement community dwelling space.

Fashioning an active health plan to accompany your financial plan is another new notion surfacing. “The things you want to focus on when going in (for a checkup), when you are fairly well, to talk about, is how to stay well maybe even get healthier,” indicates Dr. Wendolyn Gozansky, Vice-President, Colorado Medical Group for Kaiser Permanente. She also notes, “We’ve seen a lot of folks when they have the additional time to exercise more or even take up new hobbies or interests, they actually become more engaged in life and actually get healthier.”

“My philosophy is you don’t grow old because you played, yougo old because you stopped playing, so that’s why you age, “indicates Rocky Mountain Senior Games Director Kate Amack. “You’ve got to move. Motion is lotion for your joints and muscles, you’ve got to move.”
Typical aging models such as men sitting on benches sharing war or sports stories and women in knitting circles and cooking classes, or both men and women solely focused on the grandchildren are currently undergoing real transitional change by boomers. Just how much or little you get involved with the new program will determine your answer to “What’s Next?”

Editor’s note: Adam Dempsey is the producer/host for the series “The Active Generation,” Boomers Changing Aging to Ageless” telecast three years on RMPBS, and a member of the Denver Commission on Aging.