A few weeks ago, four of us mature folks got the deal of a lifetime, literally. At the North Entrance to Yellowstone we purchased Senior Passes that allow us lifetime access to every national park in the country for $10. We’d heard about this screaming deal via social media, but until we held the passes in our hot little hands none of us believed it. On August 28, 2017 the price of the Senior Pass rose to $80, but all things considered that’s still pretty reasonable.
One member of our group joked that the $10 pass could be an elaborate scheme to entice older folks into the park and then do away with us. We laughed, but given our burgeoning numbers, maybe it’s not so funny. In case you missed the statistics I threw out last month, the U.S. Census bureau calculates that by 2020, 55.9 million people in the U.S. will be age 65 or older, and by 2030, that number will reach 72.7 million.
As I indicated in my previous post, John and I have decided we can’t afford and don’t want to quit working, despite our boomer status. Neither do we want to spend the last third of our lives doing the same things we did during the first two-thirds. Which is why our friend Dutch Mandel says we should be calling it rewirement instead of retirement. I love that, don’t you? We’re not leaving the field, we just want to play the game a bit differently.
As Robert Laura wrote in a recent Forbes article: “In the past, retirement was defined as freedom from the workplace. Now boomers are redefining it as freedom in the workplace.” He goes on to point out that the work we boomers are looking for is “flexible and fluid.”
But what does flexible and fluid work look like? Again, the answers are as varied as we are. Longtime Autoweek publisher Dutch Mandel became an independent automotive writer with the freedom to pick and choose his assignments. Legendary writer and editor Jean Jennings left Automobile magazine for Jean Knows Cars, Inc., which utilizes social media to provide automotive content tailored to women. Another friend retired from the navy and started a venture using drones for aerial mapping. John and I have recently opened Devils Creek Distillery, a family-owned company producing small batch spirits.
Not all of us are starting our own businesses, of course, but recent research does suggest that boomers are more likely to do so than any other generation right now. And why not? We have a lifetime of skills and experience to draw on, and with luck, a lot of good years ahead of us.
Most boomers who don’t relish the risks of starting a business still want a career change of one sort or another. Maybe it’s similar to something you’ve done in the past, or maybe it’s completely different. According to Business Talent Group Founder and CEO Jody Greenstone Miller, “Your life has a cycle and you value different things at different points. You need to match up your career objectives with your life cycle.”
Rewirement is not without its challenges, and one of them is certainly a cultural predisposition to dismiss the potential of those over the age of 65. Sure, we feel younger than our parents did, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the population can see past our gray hair and character lines. And it’s not just that we’re hanging around longer. As Robert Laura points out: “Instead of extra years being tacked on at the end of the line, superchargers are being installed near traditional retirement age.” And, he continues, those superchargers mean we have “10-20 more productive and capable working years when compared to previous generations.”
Some days I have my doubts about that supercharger, but for the most part I agree with Laura. That’s not to say it’s all rainbows and unicorns from here. Few companies offer phased retirement options or flexible opportunities for seniors, and age discrimination is a serious issue. City and community planners haven’t really given much thought to the kind of support systems we’re going to need to continue living vital, productive lives. Finally, the cost of health care appears certain to become even more of a burden.
At the end of the day, I guess it’s a good thing there are a lot of us, because the sheer size of our cohort is bound to drive at least some changes. And we are no strangers to change. As George Lorenzo points out in an excellent article in Fast Company: “The baby boomer generation has lived though decades of radical political and social change, so it should be no surprise that they are also revolutionizing retirement.”
I say let’s show them how it’s done.