You probably remember going to visit your grandparent as a child, and they seemed so old. Only now, you’re the same age and frankly, you don’t think you look “old and withered.” In fact, you’re pretty able and mobile, and looking good. This isn’t your imagination.
We Baby Boomers are in greater health than our parents and grandparents ever were. This is great, but it means retirement looks a lot different today than it did thirty years ago. This change in senior life should have us thinking about how we live as a senior today, rather than how your parents did it years ago.
We Live Longer Than Ever Before
It’s true, this generation is outliving every other before us. There are many things to think about, then, when we look to our senior years. For example, our money needs to last for an additional 15 years longer than our parents’ money did. That’s a very long time. We need to consider what our lives are going to look like for decades to come, not just years. Studies show that future generations’ senior years will greatly resemble their younger years. It’s because we aren’t the old crotchety grandparents we thought we’d be. We really are more mobile and sharp, which means retirement looks a little more pleasant.
Old Age is Older
Living longer is generally attributed to a healthier lifestyle. We eat better, exercise, and as a result, we aren’t as badly afflicted with deadly diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and even dementia is delayed. The thing is, we aren’t just living longer, we’re living better, too. Which means today’s 70-year-old is less dependent on others, has a sharp mind, and is fully functional. Retirement isn’t always necessary just yet.
All this improvement has some people redefining “old age” – that is, 65 is no longer the universal oh, crap, I’m officially old birthday. You can wait another nine years, as the International Institute for Applied Systems Analytics (IIASA) in Vienna has conducted studies that lead it to conclude that age 74 is the turning point between middle age and old age. The IIASA believes old age should begin when we have 15 years or fewer to live. We don’t have a crystal ball on that one, so it’s hard to exactly pinpoint this shift, but we do know that 89 is common life expectancy.
Why does this distinction matter? For one, it affects employers who may not want to hire a 63-year-old who may retire in two years, when, instead, that worker will be around for possibly 11 years. It’s also used to measure labor participation as a whole, as well as a barometer for increased disability and dependence.
Work and Retirement
The good news, or the bad news, depending on your perspective, is that seniors should consider extending their working years, rather than decrease them. This is a healthy move, actually, as some studies indicate those who work past age 65 have an 11% lower death risk.
The government is taking note of all this, of course, and retirement age is rising, slowly. Most retirees don’t seem to mind, though. According to author Bill Byham, 60% to 70% of seniors in their 60s and 70s say they want to continue to work. Reasons lie in an enjoyment of work life – the paycheck, of course, but cohorts and the challenge of work are major reasons seniors continue to stay employed. Some say they’d like a different kind of work, but they don’t want to retire just yet.
Still, many people are burned out and ready to throw the corporate towel by the time they hit their 60s, and the idea of continuing to work is not top of their list. For these, part-time employment offers a flexible, lower stress alternative that still generates income to help fund those additional living years.
The biggest challenge seniors face is changing the attitudes of the younger generations who see them as out of touch has-beens who are holding on only for retirement, and are difficult to fire if they perform poorly. Better attitudes are slowly evolving, however, when employers consider older employees wise with experience, rather than square. It means seniors who are still working should continue if they can, and those who have retired could find other opportunities, be it part-time work, or investment strategies to maintain a sharp mind and a flush wallet for years to come.