Today is my Someday

November 21st, 2008

Every eight seconds, another baby boomer turns 50. As they inexorably move toward empty nesting, middle age and retirement, they are once more redefining those very concepts.

As Dennis Hopper, 1960s conterculture anti-hero from Easy Rider says in the “Dreams Don’t Retire” Ameriprise campaign,“You don’t turn your dreams over to the authorities at age 60.” Dreams are forever. A message that resonates with a group that thrives on finding meaning and constant reinvention.

Boomers are less likely to retire in the endless vacation tradition of previous generations and more likely to “graduate” to new and bigger life experiences.

Commonly defined as anyone born between 1946 and 1964, there are nearly 78 million baby boomers in the United States, representing 29 percent of the population. But it’s far from a homogenous group.

In one of the most significant social trends, boomers are moving to a new stage of work, driven both by a reluctance to give up entirely on the meaning and direction that work offers and the need to make ends meet over longer life spans. Dubbed “encore careers,” these second and third careers allow boomers to push the envelope and find or create opportunities to fulfill their dreams of making the world a better place.

Boomers in their 50s are in the midst of the most unstructured and liberating time of their lives. They’re healthier than their parents were at the same age and are going to live 15 to 20 years longer than their grandparents.

A Money Magazine survey found that many boomers are forming a new agenda that includes wanting to use their experience and talent to give back in an encore career that means more than just money — they want personal fulfillment and social renewal as well. So why not take advantage of longer working lives to do something significant and leave the world a better place? Sounds like a win-win. Plus by working longer, boomers also will help fund the Social Security system, designed back in 1945 when Americans lived, on average, 12 years fewer than they do now.

Many who are financially set are finding meaning in volunteerism. Boomers already have the highest volunteer rate of any group in the population, but as they retire, they want to do much more than serve juice at the local hospital. Some are already leading the way, creating organizations like Coming of Age, which recruits seniors for leadership roles in non-profits, and the Encore Service Corps for ex-Peace Corps volunteers willing to accept overseas assignments.

Some of the industries struggling with employee recruitment are ideally suited to benefit from this trend. Healthcare, child care and education to name a few. How might your company harness the experience, passion and desire of this group?

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