It’s difficult to believe that TV host Pat Sajak and actresses Suzanne Somers and Diane Keaton will celebrate their 70th birthdays in 2016. There are 2.5 million baby boomers also turning 70 this year. For the first time, this historic generation will enter their eighth decade of life.
“Roughly 44 million people in the United States are now 65 years or older. By 2050, the Census Bureau expects that figure to double, as the largest generation in American history lives longer than any before it,” writes Nancy Cook in the June 28 article, “Will Baby Boomers Change the Meaning of Retirement?” for The Atlantic.
“Compared with people reaching the same age in 1965, the new 70-year-olds can expect 15 more years of life,” according to the January/February AARP Bulletin feature by Bill Newcott, “The Boomers turn 70.” Newcott cites expert, Jay Olshansky, a professor from the University of Illinois in Chicago, who attributes this to “a bounty of medical advances in areas like heart disease and cancer treatment.”
Born between 1946 and 1964, even the youngest boomers are now over 50. They are aging, but their high expectations for their lives, a characteristic of this generation, don’t seem to be diminishing. Although recent information from http://gallup.com cites, “By age 68, only about a third of boomers are still in the workforce.” (About half are working part- time)
An example of one enterprising boomer can be found in the recent movie, “The Intern,” which was released on DVD on Jan. 19. The film is about a millennial CEO/entrepreneur played by Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway, and her startup’s 70-year-old intern Ben Whittaker portrayed by Robert DeNiro.
DeNiro’s character is a former company executive who becomes an intern to fill the void left by retirement and becoming a widower, but some critics panned the movie. Of course, there were some really great reviews too. Yet the negative reviews might express our societal disconnect regarding different generational groups working together.
The economic downturn in late 2007 created both unemployment and ongoing economic uncertainty. In recent months, unemployment statistics indicate that things are almost back to normal. But these statistics don’t adequately count the Prime-age workers (25-54) who have given up looking, along with the percentage of baby boomers (51-70) and beyond, who still want to work. Nor do they reflect the underemployed who deserve better.
This can create an unspoken tension between both the millennials (18-34) and Gen Xers (35-50) in regards to over-50 workers who seemingly refuse to retire. Sadly, younger employees have never experienced a sense of stability in the job market, while some seasoned workers are frustrated by their fear of being pushed aside or forced into early retirement by a more youthful prospect.
There are older individuals who couldn’t retire if they wanted to. A volatile stock market, lack of savings or pension plans, reduced home equity and longer life spans, can force folks into staying on the job. Besides, boomers became comfortable with debt.
“This comfort … represents the boomer generation’s essential philosophy: Live for today,” Newcott reports in AARP. This results “in more than 4 out of 10 of those reaching 70 this year [to] risk running out of money in retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.”
In conjunction, an April 15 article on http://forbes.com by Laura Shin, “The median net worth among households near retirement (ages 55 to 64) show that only about a quarter can expect an adequate cash income stream from their retirement savings.”
The Urban Institute reports that long-term employees are less likely to lose their jobs due to seniority, “But when laid off, seniors take much longer to become reemployed. And once they find a job, it usually pays much less than their previous position.”
DeNiro’s character didn’t require additional income to avoid poverty like a percentage of aging Americans face. Instead he wanted to feel productive, which is what many older individuals also desire. That’s why, whether retired or unemployed, there are innovative boomers and beyond who aren’t giving up. Some are finding part-time or consulting opportunities, while others are opening small businesses. For those not in need of a paycheck, many make volunteering a way of life. There are also senior interns like Ben Whittaker, or maybe that’s only in Hollywood?
Yet no matter how old you are, as a productive society, it’s important that we find ways to embrace, not fear each other regardless of age.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at http://christinaryanclaypool.com.