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February 2022

The Big Disconnect

Signs-g25410ada2_1920In my previous post, I wrote about the fact that a growing percentage of Boomers seemed to be retiring from the workforce while, at the same time, there was a significant increase in Boomers working for themselves. I drew the conclusion that many Boomers may be looking at work differently, redefining what we think of as work. Some of them may be opting out of a traditional full-time job working for someone else in favor of full- or part-time self-employment.

Lurking behind this conclusion, however, is a stark reality that many Boomers may be pursuing non-traditional work because they have no choice. The fact is there is a problem of perception in the workplace, both in the United States and elsewhere. It centers around another topic I've addressed frequently: Ageism.

In "Older Workers to the Rescue? Why Boomers May be the Answer to the Big Quit," an article recently published by Newsweek, Bradley Schurman confirms my belief about Boomer gig work by citing statistics from the Pew Research Center: "...20 percent of gig workers in the U.S.—from freelance consultants to Uber drivers—are over the age of 50, and nearly a third of those are over the age of 65."

Schurman notes that in the post-World War II American workplace of 1950, "nearly one out of two men over the age of 65 were in the formal labor market." He asks whether employers will take advantage of the huge over-65 labor pool available to them today, but he writes, "Nothing will change, though, unless employers abandon hiring and firing practices that favor the young." He goes on to say, "Hiring managers, in particular, must remove coded language like 'recent college graduate,' as well as the requisite number of years of experience from job postings. They also need to get out of the rut of assuming that an older worker is 'overqualified,' technologically illiterate or only going to stick around for a few years."

On the positive side, Schurman suggests that a major demographic shift could affect how employers view older workers: "The labor force participation rate for people over the age of 75 is expected to grow by nearly 100 percent by 2030, according to the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics]. In contrast, the total workforce will only expand by about 5 percent, and the 16-24 age group will likely decline, thanks to decades of contracting birth rates."

Perhaps this shift will, as Schurman surmises, finally force employers to recognize the value of hiring Boomer employees instead of viewing them as obsolete workers. With millions of jobs to fill, it's only a matter of time before employers realize millions of qualified Boomers are ready, able and willing to work. Until then, however, there will continue to be a big disconnect between the age-discrimination hiring practices of most employers and the availability of capable, experienced job-seeking Boomers.

Image: is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



Discover How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

"Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work We Go" -- or Is It?

The_Seven_Dwarfs_DisneyAs of the third quarter of 2021, 50.3% of U.S. adults 55 and older said they were out of the labor force due to retirement, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recent official labor force data. In the third quarter of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic, 48.1% of those adults were retired. In regard to specific age groups, in the third quarter of 2021 66.9% of 65- to 74-year-olds were retired, compared with 64.0% in the same quarter of 2019.

The data regarding entrepreneurs tell a different story, however. According to the Kauffman Foundation, the trend in the age of entrepreneurs over the past twenty-five years represents a substantial shift towards more participation of older entrepreneurs: In 1996, 14.8% of entrepreneurs were 55-64 years old and by 2020, 24.5% were 55-64 years old. An article in NextAvenue indicates that Guidant Financial and the Small Business Trends Alliance, in its 2021 Small Business Trends (a survey of over 2,400 current and aspiring small business owners nationwide), report that Boomers account for 41% of small business owners (currently between ages 57 and 75) and Generation X for 46% (41 to 56 years old).

Looking at these data together, one might conclude that a significant portion of the Boomer generation is leaving the traditional workforce -- that is, working for someone else -- and possibly entering the self-employed workplace. Today, self-employment could be defined in a number of different ways. It could be starting a full-time business or a part-time business. It could also be setting up a freelance business in which an individual works on a project or hourly basis. So many of these "gig" businesses fly under the statistical radar that it might be difficult to even know how many older adults are involved in such enterprises.

It may look like the majority of Boomers are retiring, but how many of them are instead just changing the way they look at work? Perhaps a number of them are now viewing work as optional rather than mandatory. Those Boomers who retire from the traditional workforce may be figuring out how to combine part-time work with volunteering and leisure time. They could be drawing Social Security and taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from retirement funds to live on and working part-time more for satisfaction than for income. If this is the case, as I suspect it is, then many Boomers have indeed fundamentally changed the very nature of retirement. They're going off to work... but in a whole new way.

Image from 1958 trailer for Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



Discover How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

"Rewiring" with Purpose

Austin-chan-ukzHlkoz1IE-unsplashSince I began writing this blog almost seven years ago, I've promoted the idea of rewiring instead of retiring. To me, "rewiring" means approaching our second act in life as an opportunity to refresh our perspective. It means recognizing how to pursue another path while leveraging the talents we have and the experience we've gained in our first act.

The typical Boomer has spent his or her adult life working. The most fortunate of us found jobs which turned into careers or professions. Perhaps we have been rewarded financially. Hopefully, we've gained satisfaction for a job well done. Even better, we've achieved a sense of purpose.

So how do we meet the fundamental challenge of rewiring with purpose? I'm certainly not the first to address this question.

Books have been written on this very subject, such as Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging by Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro, published last year. In an interview with Nancy Collamer for NextAvenue, Leider said purpose "is the answer to the question, 'Why do you get up in the morning?' ... Everyone has a purpose, but it rarely just reveals itself. You have to make a choice to discover your purpose, be curious and make connections with others. It's an iterative process that unfolds over time and changes with age, so it's important to reassess your purpose on a regular basis."

Leider adds, "If you are going to continue to grow as you age, you need to reexamine your gifts. Ask yourself: What do I really love to do? What do I want my legacy to be? Then, think about how you can best use those gifts to solve a pressing problem, help someone out or make a contribution to others. When you do that, you'll place yourself along the path to purposeful aging."

Investment adviser Brian Skrobonja, writing for Kiplinger, shares similar advice about purpose in the form of three specific action steps:

Action #1: Reinvent Yourself
"The transition of retirement is not the destination; it is the transition to what is next.  It is your opportunity to reinvent yourself and live out the second half of your life with purpose."

Action #2: Reframe Your Mindset About Money
"The measurement for your success should be on how much income you can generate from your assets that is consistent and predictable. It’s income from your assets that grants you freedom of money and time so you can dedicate your talents to pursue your purpose."

Action #3: Reframe Your Mindset of Time
"You have a choice: You can live as if you have been set out to pasture to retire or you can live as if you are just entering your second half of your life. Your future reality is created in your mind, and whatever you focus on expands."

Of course, there is no magic formula for discovering your post-career purpose. It is highly personal and individualized. For some, it could be new found activism inspired by past activism; this is what Third Act founder Bill McKibben exhorts us to do.

Discovering your purpose may take some time -- and it is likely to be an ongoing process. That isn't a bad thing: It's just the nature of rewiring, instead of retiring.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



Discover How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"



How Realistic is an Intergenerational America?

Jana-sabeth-snDUMdYF7o8-unsplashThink for a moment about the typical Boomer childhood. We Boomers probably grew up in neighborhoods where we got to know not just our friends, but our friends' parents, uncles, aunts and even grandparents. In our own families, it wasn't unusual to have older generations living close by or even in the same household. As a toddler, I regularly interacted with my grandparents and other older relatives. 

Today things are very different. Instead of experiencing this close-knit intergenerational bonding, modern families are typically spread out across cities or regions. Even though people are living longer, young children don't seem to be intimately involved with the elderly nearly as much as in previous times. As a result, these kids may not be growing up with an understanding or empathy for older generations.

A series of essays in the Stanford Social Innovation Review has explored this issue in detail; I've written about a number of intergenerational programs mentioned in those essays that show promise. In the final essay in the series, "Rebuilding an Age-Integrated Society," Marci Alboher and Eunice Lin Nichols write, "Today, most younger people are in school, middle-age people are at work, and older people are in age-restricted communities; their lives rarely intersect. This restructuring has left the country ill-prepared for a world with more Americans living longer lives and more generations living at the same time."

Alboher and Nichols have identified four necessary ingredients to help renew the notion of an intergenerational America:

  1. A new mindset
    The authors write that "Individuals and organizations can begin to make an intergenerational shift by committing to a new mindset—an asset-based lens that combats ageism and leverages the complementary aspirations, gifts, and contributions of old and young."
  2. More money
    Funding for intergenerational programs, whether it is from government or philanthropic organizations, is urgently needed.
  3. A supportive policy environment
    For intergenerational programs to be sustainable, "policies that incentivize intergenerational connection" are required.
  4. A research agenda
    The authors indicate that "Innovators piloting new intergenerational models need research that can drive improvements in practice, and help make the case for expansion and investment."

Alboher and Nichols point out that a model for intergenerational society already exists "in many Indigenous cultures, immigrant communities, and communities of color..." and they suggest we must learn from them:

"We must learn from proven intergenerational traditions and practices, and remix them for modern times, creating a vibrant new social contract that reflects the multigenerational and multicultural reality that is already reshaping the American landscape, and that will be a hallmark of the 21st century."

If we can meet the challenge of age segregation and recreate the age-integrated society of the past, it could have a lasting, beneficial impact on all of us.

Note: Please see the comment below from one of our readers who asks some intriguing questions!

Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog



Discover How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"