On a Whim

A Real Solution to Workplace Age Discrimination

OnaWhimAge discrimination in the workplace is a threat to Boomers in the United States, as I mentioned in my previous post. But in South Korea, age discrimination is so culturally ingrained that companies routinely force workers over 60 into retirement.

An enterprising Korean, Chung Eunsung, has come up with a terrific solution to rampant ageism: He started EverYoung, a technology company that practices a different kind of blatant discrimination: The company hires only workers who are 55 years of age and older, many of whom are former engineers and mathematicians. EverYoung's oldest employee is 83.

Chung told Tech Wire Asia, “I believe by employing seniors, we help to improve their quality of life and welfare. Korea is aging and the phenomenon is accelerating, so we believe their participation in our economy would, in fact, revitalize it, as well as breathe some life into the aging society.” The company requires its employees to take a 10-minute break every hour, and the work is performed in 4-hour shifts. Benefits include a stocked pantry, sofas and books in a break area, and use of a blood pressure machine.

Kim Seong-Kyu, a manager at EverYoung, said the company's older employees, unlike younger employees, are detail-oriented and they work diligently without being distracted. The employees monitor blog content, among other things. "They are full of passion," Kim said. "The time they have, and their interest in this work, are primarily why they come to work."

Just imagine if one or more American companies were able to follow such a model. It could revolutionize the way American business operates, solve senior unemployment, and change attitudes toward aging, all in one fell swoop. I'd love to see an American entrepreneur have the guts and wisdom to create an EverYoung look-alike in this country. Of course, the irony is that such a company here would probably be sued for discriminating against younger employees! Still, we can dream, can't we?


Resources for Seniors

OnaWhimHave you noticed that the number of online resources available for seniors has blossomed lately? It comes as no surprise -- Boomers are aging, they'll need all kinds of services, and information is free-flowing from service organizations and marketers who want to reach seniors. I've already mentioned one of the best resources from PBS, Next Avenue. (http://www.nextavenue.org/) Be sure to subscribe to their free email newsletter.

One of the newer resources is the website Senior Care Helper (http://seniorcarehelper.org/). Its mission is to be a resource for seniors and their caregivers. Especially for Happily Rewired readers, Susan Williams of Senior Care Helper was kind enough to share several links to valuable information for seniors about health, finances, aging in place, moving, and more. Check them out below.

Senior Health Resources

Boomer's Roadmap to Aging in Place

Moving Tips for Seniors

Financial Resources for Seniors

Planning for the Future for Seniors with Special Needs

Veterans Benefits for Seniors

Legal Planning for Alzheimer's and Dementia


Think Creatively about Supplementing Your Income

OnaWhimSome Boomers on the way to retirement want to earn supplemental income, but they aren't sure just how to do it. One way is to think creatively about how to leverage your experience and passions and turn them into income opportunities. For instance, I live in an area known for its arts and crafts community. An acquaintance of mine retired from the software business and always had an interest in woodcraft. He took some classes, practiced for awhile, and now sells wooden pens, pendants, and ornaments at local shows. Another retiree did the same thing with handcrafted jewelry.

Nancy Collamer, a wise coach who specializes in retirement careers, offers some creative ideas in an article published in the March 5th edition of Woman's World. She says the experience you gained in a previous work setting can be applied to a new role. "You may have been an office manager," says Nancy, "but what you really loved doing was organizing the company picnic every year. Maybe now you can work part-time as an event planner!"

Other ideas: Become a tour guide in your own city, rent out your driveway for parking if you live near an event venue, or even rent out yourself as a baby or pet sitter. And if you like to drive, there are services such as Uber and Lyft just for you. "Uber, for example, is making a concerted effort to hire people over 50 because they're seen as more reliable," says Collamer.

Collamer also suggests checking out websites that help you learn about and find new jobs, such as Fabjob.com ( a site that you can use as an idea starter to explore new career directions) and Flexjobs.com (a site that lists a wide variety of flexible, part-time positions).

Be sure to sign up for Nancy's excellent email "Second-Act Newsletter" at her website, MyLifestyleCareer.com.


Have You Discovered OLLI?

OnaWhimOne of the blessings of being retired is the time now available to you for educational pursuits of your own choosing. Most retirees no longer need to take courses to fulfill degree requirements; instead, they can take courses purely for enjoyment. If you're fortunate enough to live near an "OLLI," there is a whole world of educational opportunity available.

OLLI, or the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a program of the Bernard Osher Foundation, which provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities. Currently, there are OLLIs operating on the campuses of 119 institutions of higher education around the country. You can find a list of these institutions here

The programs and courses offered by each OLLI vary based on the volunteers who participate. This is because the basic structure of an OLLI is for volunteers to teach the classes and work at various functions for the institute, while seniors who attend classes pay a generally reasonable membership fee and "tuition" to take a few courses per semester.

If you're thinking that these courses are traditional or boring, you couldn't be more wrong. Often, OLLI courses are an eclectic mix of subject material -- everything from issues of the day, to classic movies, to architecture unique to the area. It all depends on what volunteer instructors think up, and on what OLLI members suggest.

Getting involved in an OLLI in your area offers other benefits as well. In addition to courses, many OLLIs host meetings, presentations, workshops, and cultural and social events. OLLIs also provide volunteer activities. The colleges and universities with OLLIs on their campuses often allow senior students to take advantage of other campus perks, such as using the library and dining halls. OLLIs are a great way to connect with other seniors in your community, especially if you are new to the area.

Looking for a way to stay involved, informed, and invigorating? Maybe OLLI is for you.

 

 


Learning is Living

OnaWhimViewed positively, our later years can be a time for learning about things we never had the time to learn about. For most of us, "free time" was such a rarity in our younger years. Now, though, the luxury of time permits many Boomers to invest in learning for enjoyment. There are many ways to engage in learning, some in-person and some online. Several learning opportunities are likely to exist right in your own community.

Writing for NextAvenue.org, Nancy Collamer offers some excellent suggestions for taking "classes on the cheap." Among her ideas are taking a "MOOC" (Massively Open Online Course), typically offered at very low cost by some of the world's best known educational institutions. There are also a variety of online platforms mentioned by Collamer that offer a wide variety of online classes.

Another great option is a local community college. Many community colleges offer not just degree courses, but continuing education courses, workshops, job training, and certification programs. My local community college, for example, provides many free courses for small businesses through its Small Business Center in cooperation with SCORE.

Perhaps you're even motivated to return to school to complete an undergraduate degree or pursue an advanced one. Some colleges and universities offer reduced or free admission for seniors. You can find a state listing of such colleges here.

Finally, communities with large retirement populations often host senior learning centers. One such center, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), operates at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country. These institutes provide reasonably priced courses and workshops for seniors, as well as social events and opportunities for seniors to volunteer as instructors. Find the OLLI nearest you here.

Our retirement years can be a time for educational rewirement. After all, learning is living.


Celebrating Our National Parks at 100 Years

OnaWhimOn August 25 of this year, the National Park Service turns 100 years old. I think this deserves special recognition from the Boomer generation, since our lives have surely been enriched by these places of exceptional natural beauty.

My first memories of National Parks are probably similar to yours. I remember when my parents took us on a cross-country trip, westward bound from New York, driving all the way. It was the Fifties and Americans were in love with autos. Among the unforgettable sights I saw were Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon. Ever since, our National Parks have left me awe-inspired.

Stories about America's National Parks abound, from the Ken Burns film about National Parks on PBS to tales of people who have made it their goal to visit every National Park (there are more than 400 of them) before they die. There is even a club devoted to visiting all of the National Parks.

Do yourself a life-changing favor: If you haven't visited a National Park lately, do it. If you are 62 years of age or older, you can probably do it for free. Why? Because your age qualifies you for a "Senior Pass," good for lifetime free admission to over 2,000 Federal recreation sites, including National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and many National Forest lands. The Pass is just $10 if you pick it up in person (driver's license or other government ID required), or $20 by mail. Download an application below.

Visit a National Park today -- and wish our National Parks a happy 100th birthday!

Download Senior_Pass_Application


Is a "Micro-Enterprise" Right for You?

OnaWhimIn previous posts, I've discussed everything from part-time work to volunteering to starting a business in an effort to keep busy and supplement retirement income in your later years.

Another creative option is something called a "micro-enterprise." Chris Farrell, author of the book Unretirement, tells RetirementRevised.com, "micro-enterprises allow you to work from home, take advantage of technology, not touching your retirement savings and using just a little money to experiment.” Another plus of a micro-enterprise is, if you have a new business idea you can“find out if there really is a market–if there is, then you can commit more resources and perhaps round up more money,” says Farrell.

Mark Miller, who writes RetirementRevised.com, cites the stories of several individuals who have started successful micro-enterprises. He also points out that the new sharing economy offers micro-enterprise opportunities through such services as Uber because Boomers make little or no investment while generating modest income. This could be an attractive way to supplement retirement income, as long as you realize dabbling in a micro-enterprise is not the same thing as creating a business with the intention of making it a full-time, going concern. Says Farrell, “What a micro-enterprise allows you to do is buy a lifestyle–it’s not about creating a business with a five-year exit strategy.”


Are "Cool Jobs" for Seniors Really Cool?

OnaWhimI recently became aware of a website called Coolworks.com which features temporary jobs, mostly in desirable travel destinations. The site even has a special section called "Older and Bolder" that targets seniors who might be interested in such jobs. On this page, the copy reads, "Opportunities for retirees in great places! Employers value your experience, worldview and work ethic!"

Out of curiosity, I perused the job listings. As you might expect, these are temporary, seasonal jobs. Dig a little deeper and you recognize another fact: They are largely menial, low-paying jobs. Common opportunities include desk clerks, hosts/hostesses, and kitchen help.

My initial reaction was negative rather than positive. If "employers value your experience, worldview and work ethic," why do they expect you to work for $8 per hour with no benefits? Even though you may be working at a job in a desirable vacation destination, will that really make a difference if you're washing dishes eight hours a day? Washing dishes is still washing dishes, even if it is in the Grand Tetons. Granted, some of the jobs also provide housing, but it isn't free and the accommodations are spartan at best.

I'm not suggesting that some of these opportunities might not be worthy of consideration. They could provide income for seniors looking for a short-term commitment who are also interested in seeing a different part of the world. But it is curious that employers are now turning to seniors who have been pushed out of the job market to fill these positions; in the past, these jobs would almost certainly go to high school and college students on their summer breaks. Is it because these jobs are too menial even for today's kids -- or have employers realized that they can get the "experience, worldview and work ethic" of seniors at a bargain price?

If anyone has had an experience working at one of these "cool jobs," I'd love to hear about it. 


C'mon Brands, Recognize Us!

OnaWhimI've commented before about the fact that brands often neglect Boomers, even though we are the generation that has accumulated the most wealth in the U.S. Here is some hard data to support that contention.

Sonar, the proprietary research unit of J. Walter Thompson, a leading global ad agency, conducted a study of the 50+ market in December 2015. The results, according to the agency, "challenge deep-rooted age-based assumptions and signal a pro-aging shift... but they also signal that brands still have not done enough to prepare."

Some of the views shared by 50+ consumers in the study are fascinating. See if they mesh with your own:

  • They are adopting "more relaxed attitudes towards aging"
  • 94% say “I accept my age” and 87% embrace growing older
  • 75% browse and shop online at least monthly
  • An almost equal percentage say they prefer to shop in-store (23%) vs. online (24%)
  • 88% think many products and services could be better designed for the needs of older people
  • More than three-quarters (78%) say they don’t feel the need to reverse the time with “anti-aging products.”

There may be a lot brands don't know (or don't want to know) about today's 50+ consumer. Brands that understand how to reach and engage this key demographic group will be better off for it.

 


Wharton's Take on Retirement

OnaWhimThe prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania recently published an insightful article about retirement. According to the article, "Research indicates that those who are happiest in retirement tend to answer that question by 'giving back' and discovering a sense of purpose." Stewart Friedman, founding director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, adds, “It’s critical to reflect on what matters to you. People at this stage are focused on their legacy. You need to actively inquire of yourself: What do I want to leave behind?”

One of the challenges soon-to-be-retired professionals wrestle with is the close connection work has with their identities. Peter Cappelli, a Wharton management professor, says, “A lot of people get their identity from work and they get their social interaction from work, so the idea of stopping means they’re going to lose both. [You need to] respect that it’s going to be a huge loss.

“If you’re getting close to that part of your life and you don’t know what you’re going to do, treat it as a worrying sign,” he adds. “Don’t assume it’s going to be OK and that it’s all going to work out. Figure this out now. Get busy.”

San Asato, president of a Minnesota-based financial advisory group, says that "one of the biggest challenges is when there’s a gap between expectation and reality. You take a busy executive who has had a successful career. He is looking forward to retirement because he wants to pursue a hobby or some kind of pet project. But when he retires, he finds that he is not very good at it. It’s difficult. I encourage my clients to take classes, take lessons and brush up on their skills [while they’re still working].”

For some, a phased retirement (working part-time) may be the best option. For others, it may be an encore career. Wharton reports that "encore careers — also known as 'post careers' or 'second acts' — tend to provide more satisfaction than previous careers. People in encore careers express very high job satisfaction, and overwhelming majorities say they feel good about the work they are doing, see the positive results of their work, know that they are making a difference, feel appreciated and like that they are able to use their skills and experience..."

This article addresses many retirement issues and concerns without the sugar-coating. You can read the entire article here.