Boomers, those post-war babies born between roughly 1946 and 1964, are beginning to hit retirement age in large numbers with potentially as much as 30 years of productive living still ahead of them. Tamara Erickson, author of Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation, and Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, would have us believe that all of us can find new, fulfilling work in those later years. I wish it were as easy as they make it sound.
I agree with them that many Boomers do not want to quit working and many want to contribute to their communities in some significant way . A few will find opportunities that fit both desires. However, I think there are at least three conditions that fly in the face of Erickson's and Freedman's very optimistic view of opportunities for Boomers, particularly those over 60. First of all, given the current economic conditions, the opportunities are constricting daily. Large companies in all sectors are laying off workers or not hiring, and small companies are not growing as fast as they had hoped. Companies and nonprifts are finding ways to do more with less; technology is making this possible. Second, because of the market, retirees and people near retirement either do not have the savings and investments or fear that they won't have the savings and investments to take the risk to make a change in their careers. They are doing whatever they can to hang on to their current sources of income. Third,starting a new career and, especially starting a business, takes tremendous internal strength, persistence, energy, and time, all of which are in short supply among Boomers. Not many at that age, or any age for that matter, have the fortitude to learn a totally new job or grow a new business. And even if they could start a business, the odds are against them that they will succeed.
I commend the individuals who, in their 60s, have found a new, meaningful job rather than retire, or have found a place as a needed volunteer in a nonprofit organization, or have taken a risk and started an exciting new business. I am in awe of these people. But most Boomers don't see these as options nor do they have the temperment and resources to make them happen.