By Mike Colpitts
The first baby boomers hit 65-years-old this year, but they wont be living like their parents as they enter senior–hood in a whole new way defying the odds, and living longer moving homes more than most could have imagined.
A combination of better diets, exercise and medical science is driving the expectation of a longer life, but the financial crisis has handed boomers a volatile mix forcing many to go back to work at jobs they would not have otherwise chosen like the thousands of older employees who work at WalMart stores.
Unlike prior generations, boomers aren’t taking kindly to being called senior citizens as nearly 55-million Americans enter the boomer generation over the next decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Boomers are not only living longer with a life expectancy of 78-years on average, but are more mobile, work full or part time and live in homes that have quick access to family and friends.
Boomers are a new generation of more friendly folks than their aging counter-parts with a spirited healthier selection of foods, exercise, medical care and an appreciation for living life on their terms. They also move more often, despite economic hard times in efforts to improve their quality of life.
“Today’s sixty-five-year-olds are starting new careers or continuing old ones, traveling around the world, and eloping with new loves,” wrote author Mary Catherine Bateson in her book Composing a Further Life, a study of the stage of life she calls “adulthood II.”
In the next 10 years the number of people turning 65 will be unprecedented. The number of Americans 65 or older will grow from 40 million to 54.6 million by 2020 – a 36% increase adding 14.6 million seniors to the population.
Boomers have been defying expectations since their early lives in the Hippie era of the 1960s, and they aren’t about to go about living their lives in quiet senior citizens retirement developments into their “Golden years.” In fact, some of the most active political movements in the Tea Party are senior citizen initiated.
“Very few will be moving into seniors’ or retirement homes,” said John McHwain, a fellow at the non-profit Urban Land Institute. “It is likely they will move – freed as they are from the ties of kids and their past jobs – but it will not be as their parents or grandparents moved, or even as those who turned 65 in the past ten years did. In fact, all past experience of the housing patterns of those 65 and older should be considered suspect – unreliable predictors of housing patterns for this age group in the coming decade.”
Among the changes boomers consider important are down sizing their homes free of raising children, increasing their likelihood to travel and explore destinations that many have only dreamed of and a need to live more frugally due to the real estate collapse and losses in their stock market 401-k retirement accounts.
“ Some will stay in the suburbs, either by design or because they are trapped by the drop in the value of their homes,” wrote McHwain in a study on the baby boomer generation. “Keep in mind, however, that the classic American suburb was designed in the 1950s as a place for young families to raise kids, not for older adults to age in after the kids have left. A growing number of suburban boomers, especially those with more education, have been and will continue to leave the suburbs with their car and kid-centric lifestyle.”
Some boomers will stay in the suburbs or move from one suburb to the next. Others will move to an urban location, but many will move to the Sunbelt, says McHwain–“perhaps grabbing a cheap house in one of the regions with a high foreclosure rate–but probably not in the same numbers as in the past.”