During the course of your working career, technology and globalization have changed the work environment in countless ways. Many societal changes have impacted your personal life as well. It should come as no surprise that many of these same factors have also changed the retirement landscape.
Some changes are positive, others are unwelcome and some are simply different. But viewed as a whole, your retirement will be significantly different from your parents’ and your grandparents’ retirement. Here are six trends that are reshaping retirement.
One of the most pronounced trends in corporate America over the past quarter century has been the diversification of the workforce. This trend has been driven by the increase in immigration, particularly from India, China, Mexico and the Middle East. As these workers age and enter retirement, the demand for senior accommodations, from active adult communities to skilled care, will change. Similarly, the increased visibility and empowerment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community will drive changes to services. Just as diversity awareness, training and policy changes have proliferated across corporate America, the senior services industry will need to follow suit to best serve the needs of their changing clientele.
Technology and connectedness.
Baby boomers who are entering retirement represent the first wave of people who, on a broad scale, are computer-savvy and accustomed to using technology on a daily basis. Since boomers have integrated technology into their personal lives as well as their work lives, it is unlikely that they will abandon their computing devices as they enter retirement.
In many respects, the ease of shopping, communicating, researching information and consuming entertainment on the internet will make retirees’ lives easier, especially for those with decreased mobility or those whose families are dispersed. The computer skills that many retirees have acquired throughout their careers will enable them to engage in entrepreneurial pursuits and creative endeavors and remain mentally stimulated. However, spending hours in front of a computer could have unhealthy ramifications. It could lead to a more sedentary lifestyle and result in less human contact.
Exploding health care costs.
The skyrocketing costs of health insurance premiums and some prescription drugs are perhaps the most worrisome trend for those who are entering retirement prior to age 65, when Medicare eligibility takes effect. For those who leave the workforce involuntarily and are forced to retire sooner than expected, incurring these costs often has a catastrophic impact on their retirement savings and the amount of money available to spend in other ways. Staggering health insurance and drug costs are compelling many retirees to return to the workforce simply to receive health benefits through their employer or to earn the money needed to pay for their health care.
More retirees working or engaged in entrepreneurial pursuits.
For some retirees, retirement really does mean leaving work behind forever and spending the rest of their lives engaged in leisure pursuits. But for many, some form of work will be a part of their retirement lifestyle for years to come. There are many reasons people who are retired from their primary careers continue to work. Some retirees need the money, while others miss the routine, the challenge and the interaction with other people. Retirees might seek the satisfaction of launching their own business or doing work they are passionate about. And there are some people who simply want to relieve boredom and don’t know how else to spend their time.
Changing recreational preferences.
The choice of recreational activities is gradually shifting as the baby boomer generation heads into retirement. A recent study by the Physical Activity Council revealed some interesting findings. Activities that are increasing in popularity include camping, bicycling, hiking and canoeing. Activities that are decreasing in popularity include golf, swimming for fitness and working out using machines or weights. While some shifts may be attributable to how strenuous the activity is, others appear to rise or fall depending on the cost to participate. These shifts have ramifications for active adult communities with regard to the amenities they have traditionally provided for their residents.
Another interesting finding is that physical activity tends to increase based upon one’s income. This is probably due to the fact that many sporting activities require money to purchase clothing and gear and pay for the costs of participation, such as gym memberships and greens fees. If retirees feel squeezed by inflated health care costs or insufficient savings, they have less money available for physical activities.
The trend towards retirees spending more time using technology or continuing to work also impacts how much time those retirees spend engaging in physical activities. The Physical Activity Council’s report indicates that people who were very active in physical pursuits during their working years are likely to remain so in their later years, but those who engaged in lower levels of activity are likely to see those levels drop as they age.
Increased focus on creativity and pursuit of passions.
There are many generational differences between older retirees and the baby boomer generation, who are now largely in their 50s and 60s. While it is risky to categorize large groups of people using broad brush strokes, certain characteristics do apply.
Older retirees often worked for only one company, lived frugally, saved well and planned for a traditional retirement of leisure activities such as golf and card games. Their one-company career might have provided them with a good pension. In many cases, their retirement vision included moving to a retirement village in a warmer climate or being a snowbird.
The baby boomer generation is more independent, educated and free-thinking. They sought personal growth, gratification, affluence and purpose. They probably changed employers or careers several times, and most people didn’t earn a pension. In retirement, they are less likely to settle for slowing down and kicking back. They are more inclined to engage in creative pursuits that bring meaning and satisfaction to their lives, such as writing, performing music or creating art. They can indulge these passions now that they don’t need to rely on them to produce income. They are more likely to want to stay in the mainstream of society and live closer to an urban center than to retreat to a retirement village.
All of these factors are interesting to observe, but they can also help people who are approaching the end of their working career envision how their retirement lifestyle will take shape. These changing trends are also relevant to businesses and institutions who serve the retired population so that they can adapt to meet the needs of a new generation.