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Boomer Retirement Trendsetters

Posted Oct 23 2008 6:13pm

Baby Boomers are becoming aware that they are experiencing a different type of retirement than the previous generation.

Baby_boomer_couple_4 Compared to other generations, these confident and independent Baby Boomers admit that:

+ They need more money than their parents' generation to live comfortably.

+ Their generation is more self-indulgent than their parents'.

+ They will be healthier and live longer.

Each day, on average, almost 8,000 people in the U.S. turn 60.  Now the first of 78 million Baby Boomers has reached 62 and became eligible for Social Security.  How will boomers live, work and play in later life?  Here are some individuals who are designing some to the answers to this question.

William Bengen, the numbers guy, is working on how big a nest egg boomers will need and how to make it last.  Mr. Bengen, a certified financial planner in El Cajon, CA, has already achieved what amounts to rock-star status in the retirement-planning business.  His pioneering research in the 1990s gave rise to the "4% rule": Withdraw no more than about 4% a year from your nest egg, and it's highly likely that your savings will last 30 years.

Charles Feeney recognizes that all boomers should live a life of purpose.  If you find yourself, in your 60s and 70s, immersed in a new career and a new passion--teaching children to read, for instance, or helping an environmental organization--you may have Charles Feeney to thank.

Mr. Feeney, 76, is the founding chairman of Atlantic Philanthropies, an international foundation that is committed to disbursing its entire $4 billion endowment by 2020.  A large chunk will go to help older adults "live healthier, independent lives with dignity, purpose and meaning," says Brian Hofland, director of Atlantic's international aging program.

Katherine Freund understands that for millions of people, driving at some point will become impractical.  The Independent Transportation Network offers rides--around the clock, seven days a week--to older adults in the Portland, ME area.  Fees average $8 a trip.  Riders can trade in their cars and get credit for travel; volunteer drivers can bank their hours on the road to use later for themselves or family.  The Portland program provides nearly 17,000 rides a year to about 1,000 members age 65 and older.

Ms. Freund, 57, serves as president and executive director of ITNAmerica, which has grown into a national organization.  ITNAmerica now has nine affiliates which provided almost 26,000 rides last year and expects to have 40 affiliates by 2010.

Michael Merzenich is working to make "brain exercise" as much a part of your routine in retirement as walking or jogging.  Dr. Merzenich, a neuroscience professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and an inventor with more than 50 patents, is working on exercises that support decision making, fine motor control (playing musical instruments, for example), and gross motor control (to help restore balance).

Biernard Osher s helping to build classrooms and programs for those boomers returning to school in retirement.  The Bernard Osher Foundation is pouring nearly $200 million into what has become known as lifelong learning.  The foundation has donated $73 million to nearly 120 lifelong learning institutes on university campuses from Maine to Hawaii.  Future grants will be used primarily to augment those programs.

John P. Stewart is working on a blueprint for making city services receptive to all of the needs of older Americans--whether in health care, transportation, safety, employment or continuing education.  To date, 16 cities have joined in the effort, including Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta.

More than 25% of the U.S. workforce is over 60 and living healthier lives, Mr. Stewart says.  " A lot of people are going to have to work longer."  "This 'declinist' theory that people get old and should be put away is insane," says Mr. Stewart, 63.  "We can be an asset."

The spark for William Thomas's work came in 1991 while treating a patient in an upstate New York nursing home.  "She grabbed my arm, pulled me down over the bed, looked into my eyes and said, 'I'm so lonely,'" he recalls.

To revitalize the place, he opened the doors to children, brought in parakeets, cats and dogs, and plowed up the grounds for a garden.  The effort grew into the Eden Alternative, a nonprofit that has helped more than 500 nursing homes across the country shift their focus to their residents' emotional well-being and away from institutional scheduling.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2008

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