Baby Boomers, perhaps more than any other generation, have made an indelible mark on the world. Music... Money... TV as central to everyday life... Debt... Travel... Baby Boomers have redefined life and now unsurprisingly they are redefining retirement lifestyle. With approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 each day, retirement is the next frontier.
Today's retirees are determined to reinvent life, not stop living. Retirement is the next chapter, not the ending. We are more active, more engaged, and more creative. We are less willing to settle and are demanding more choices.
The following 9 factors are driving radical changes and changing attitudes about positive aging. But then, baby boomers are not strangers to radical change and are up for the challenge:
For Baby Boomers, retirement will likely last much longer than it did for their parents. According to US News and World Report, in the US the number of people over the age of 65 is expected to double by the year 2050, burgeoning from 39 million to today to over 89 million. For some, that will mean being retired for more years than they worked. This single factor will drive sweeping changes in finances, health, and relationships.
We are daily bombarded with new information about nutrition, exercise, and the value of preventative care AKA self-care. My siblings and I were fortunate to be raised by a mother who was ahead of her time when it came to nutrition and activity. Heck, she was making homemade yogurt for us here in the Deep South where few had ever heard of yogurt! Regardless of upbringing, folks reaching midlife today are more informed and more proactive about making choices to reduce or prevent illness and disease and to increase life expectancy.
In general, Baby Boomers don’t see retirement as an ending and have little or no desire to withdraw from life. Instead, it’s often viewed as the next Great Adventure. Travel, volunteering, or starting a new business venture are cited as ways to remain vibrant active members of society. Of course, simply by virtue of being retired, there is also more time for golf, porch-sitting, reading, and grandchildren!
Baby Boomers often have the dubious distinction of having to care for both aging parents plus children and grands. One could argue this is back to the old-fashioned model of multigenerational families under one roof, but modern society seems ill-equipped for this return to the old ways. Boomers may be faced with their children’s student loans at the same time they should be ramping up for their own retirement and are being called upon to help their parents. It can be a tight squeeze.
For those of us born with an overactive curiosity gene (that might be me), retirement is the perfect time to indulge in learning new things, from crafty activities to starting a new business. More and more older adults are taking advantage of continuing education courses at local universities and online. Our own local university allows people over 60 to audit almost any course for free. Since we have no desire for another degree, this is an easy way to sample courses and pamper interests.
There are a multitude of reasons why our generation is working longer. Some need the money. Some want extra money. Some love their jobs. Some love what they do and want to do it differently. Some view quitting as withdrawing from life. Others have something they’ve always wanted to do and now is the time. Retirement means something different to each of us, and as in other areas of our lives, we celebrate and feed our preferences. Part-time jobs and encore careers are on the rise for those over 60. Many older adults are choosing to volunteer where they have expertise or interest, to continue their careers in a part-time capacity or as a consultant, or to start an encore career. The one unifying characteristic is that continuing to work is often related to a passion project of some kind, even if that passion revolves around one’s own economic viability.
The desire that pops up most often in chats about retirement is travel. There is a universal feeling that our career years were consumed by working long hours and taking too few vacations. Retirees are keen on making up for this perceived lost time now. Today’s older adults are traveling more than ever and the travel industry has caught on and is catering to our preferences. My husband and I love road trips with a relatively loose schedule, though I admittedly keep an eye on the luscious brochures from Roads Scholars and other organizations catering to senior travel. They include everything from laid-back cruises and resorts, to exotic locations and adventure-themed trips such as hiking, mountain-climbing, kayaking, and more.
Statistically, many Boomers will retire in the same community where they spent most of their working years, often in the same house. Those who do choose to move are far less likely than recent generations to seek out retirement communities in Florida or elsewhere in the Sun Belt. Those of us who have been through assisted living or nursing care with our parents hope to redefine those as well. Instead, there is a significant shift towards looking for walkable communities with easily accessible amenities, whether or not these communities are designated for older adults. Boomers have grown up focused on relationships and retirement will be no exception. My own circle of friends chats regularly about creating our own retirement community with shared space for gardening, art, and cooking/dining plus private spaces.
So many potentially adverse factors here. Our social security benefits will be lower and we will have to wait longer to claim them. Those who worked in the private sector are unlikely to have a pension. In 1975, 40% of private sector employees received a traditional pension. By 2006, that number had decreased to 17% and it continues to fall. Each year, more employers freeze or eliminate their pensions and replace them with 401(k) plans. Wise Boomers are taking precautions to ensure their ongoing financial independence. If nothing else, the 2008 recession taught this generation that being financially prepared is essential to enjoying retirement.
We Baby Boomers are not only changing the way people retire, we’re embracing it with open arms. For us, our golden years are our next great adventure, our next act of defiance.
Let the revolution begin!