Pulse Issue No. 3 – February 24, 2012
The predictions are dire. As the leading edge of the Boomer generation turns 65, some say we’ll destroy civilization as we know it. We have become the enemy within. “A strain on the economy!” they cry. “A drain on the public purse!” At the World Economic Forum, the Canadian Prime Minister called us (lovingly referred to as “demographic realities”) a threat to the country’s pension programs. Nice talk.
In truth, that’s all it is – talk. Chicken-Little rhetoric. It makes for great spit-out-your-coffee headlines. But it doesn’t make sense.
Boomers are the very boom the world economy needs.
BOOMER ADAGE: QUESTION AUTHORITY
Boomers aren’t tanking anybody’s economy. In fact, we’re leading the recovery.
We’re working. In Canada, for example, employment figures for those 50-plus are on the rise. In the past 10 years:
• 55 to 59-year-olds’ employment rates jumped from 62 to 73%
• 60 to 64-year-olds increased from 36 to 51%
• 65 to 69-year-olds from 11 to 24%
And older women are leading the way. Employment levels for women 50-plus have actually jumped 16% since 2008.
We’re creating jobs. In the U.S., the largest group of entrepreneurs are in the 55-to-64 age bracket (not, as you might expect, kids like those at Google and Facebook). “Economists know that entrepreneurship will drive the economy back to health,” reports the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, “but many people will be surprised to learn that the Baby Boom generation is behind the wheel.”
We’ll keep working. A recent AARP poll found that 70 percent of Boomers “plan to work into what they view as their retirement years.” In Europe, they’re banking on it. For instance, BMW has just retrofitted one of its German plants to meet the needs of older workers – and help retain them. Why? Within a few years half of its workforce will be 50-plus.
BOOMER ADAGE: RIGHT ON!
BMW is right on the money. As AARP discovered, we want to keep working. And as others are beginning to realize, we need to. With declining birth rates around the globe, a labour shortage is looming.
And, again, Boomers hold the economic answer.
Far-sighted, forward-thinking politicians and policy-makers get it. The European Union named 2012 ‘The Year of Healthy, Active Aging.’ And the World Health Organization has just launched its ‘Age-Friendly Cities Program.’
Listen closely and you’ll hear the stirring of similar ideas on this side of the Atlantic. In a recent blog, Robert Hormats wrote, “We need a focused, society-wide effort to transform our vision of aging from a time of dependency to a time of continued growth, contribution, and social and economic participation.” No Chicken-Little rhetoric there. In fact, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment is unequivocal, “We must break the stereotype that to be old is to be inactive or dependent, and in doing so turn ‘population aging’ into the century’s greatest achievement.”
We shall overcome, indeed. Our ‘old age’ will not be a burden, but a burgeoning – for ourselves and the world around us. The sky isn’t falling, folks. It’s just starting to open up.
REVISED BOOMER ADAGE: SAY IT LOUD, I’M 50-PLUS AND I’M PROUD
Given all the Chicken-Little talk, we thought this tune from Bobby McFerrin – recently posted on his Facebook page – was the perfect anthem for this week’s Pulse. All the better that it comes from 61-year-old Mr. Don’t Worry Be Happy.
Next Week’s Pulse: People doing wild and wonderful things after 50.
For readers of RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50, each issue of Pulse will offer additional ideas. We’ll share what’s working for others and help you find your way.
“One morning, as I was getting ready to go to work, I realized that my 15-year anniversary with the company was approaching. I looked in the bathroom mirror and asked myself if I wanted to be there for another 15. And the guy in the mirror came back with an expletive and a vehement ‘No!’”
That’s Lee Weinstein. Lee, 53, knew that his working life wasn’t over. But, like most of us, he had no idea how to answer the central question, “What’s next?” Finding what’s right for us is a process that takes time. And our journey can be fraught with anxiety – we’re heading into new territory without meaningful signposts to guide us.
As Lee soon discovered, the process has many layers. “I started looking around, wondering what other jobs I might do, thought about the talents I thought I had, and did some soul searching.” And then he hit on an idea – he would do ‘free writes’ every morning, coming up with different scenarios. He made up some rules: no stopping or editing; do it daily; and, consider everything that pops up (museum director, pizza franchise owner, teacher). Finally, one day he wrote, “It’s 6:00 a.m. and I’m waking up in the Columbia Gorge and I’ve got my own business …” And he was on his way.
Today, Lee owns a successful PR firm, Weinstein PR, with big clients including his former employer, Nike. And, in hanging out a shingle, he’s become part of the entrepreneurial trend identified by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Keep your finger on the pulse. There’s a sign-up option in the right-hand column of this page. (Or visit juliamoulden.com and send us an email.) Missed the first two issues? You’ll find them there, too.
Julia Moulden is an author, speaker, and columnist. Trisse Loxley is a writer and editor for media and corporations.
Copyright 2012 Julia Moulden and Trisse Loxley. All rights reserved.