- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Third of five parts

The generation that came in with a boom is likely to go out the same way.

Retirement for baby boomers won’t focus on shuffleboard and early bird specials, and their golden years will include more rock ‘n’ roll than rocking chairs.

For Roy Beatty, a 58-year-old grandfather who lives in Winter Garden, Fla., many of his favorite moments lately have been spent “one inch off the ground, going 100 miles per hour in a car with no seat belts or roll bars.”

“I’m planning for retirement, I just don’t know when I’m going to start it,” he says, describing his favorite pastime — go-kart racing.

The first of the country’s 78.2 million baby boomers begin turning 60 next week, and their retirement likely will be filled with travel, dating, community service and even work.

In this series, The Washington Times examines how the aging of America’s largest generation will rock the social-service and health care systems created by their parents’ and grandparents’ generations and how the boomers are living out their own vision of getting older.

Even AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) has undergone a transformation as boomers — one of whom turns 50 every eight seconds — have begun joining.

“We’re trying to get rid of that word because ‘retirement’ is retired,” says Shereen G. Remez, AARP’s acting group executive officer for membership. “More than half our members are working.”

Keeping busy

Boomers might not hold full-time jobs in their retirement years, Ms. Remez says, but they will be volunteering, working part time — or just working out.

Last month, Ms. Remez, 57, ran her fourth mini-triathlon in Richmond, and she’s not alone — her generation is an active and health-conscious bunch.

For example, Marian Marbury climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year with a group of women 37 to 65 years old.

“When I was young, I thought life stopped at 50,” says the 54-year-old former white-water canoeing instructor. “My mother did not take on new challenges in her life. Both of my parents stayed physically active, but I don’t think it even crossed their mental horizons that it was a possibility to climb Kilimanjaro.”

Ms. Marbury, by contrast, leads a life of adventure.

She runs the Baltimore-based firm Adventures in Good Company Inc., which plans 40 outdoor excursions — 10 on foreign soil — each year for active women. The groups have been around the globe, including Mount Everest base camp in Nepal and backpacking in the Grand Canyon.

One group will ring in the new year in Minnesota with dog-sledding and a lesson on timberwolves.

With good health and disposable income, boomers will enjoy retirements filled with activities such as white-water rafting and travel to exotic locales, Ms. Marbury predicts.

The average boomer spent $1,155 on leisure travel last year, and 72 percent have taken at least one leisure trip in the past 12 months, according to AARP research.

Ms. Marbury suggests that boomers start small, with local activities such as snowshoeing or kayaking.

“Try something new you’ve never done before that you’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “Just go for it.”

Many boomers are embracing their later years with an “it’s never too late to learn” attitude, pursuing activities and higher education.

“Boomers are vital, open, positive and optimistic,” Ms. Remez says. “They are going to reinvent their retirement, and nothing is going to stop them.”

Mr. Beatty, the go-kart racer who also runs a golf shop in Winter Garden, Fla., laughs when asked whether he would retire one day.

“I don’t know if I’m going to do that,” he says. “Why quit? I just never have thought about not doing something.”

In addition to racing — and winning — at Daytona and other tracks several times per year, he water-skis and fishes.

Spending big

By 2030, the United States will be a nation of retirees, says Judy Morrison, a senior vice president at Fidelity Investments in Boston.

Boomers will have a different — and longer — retirement than past generations, she predicts, which is why Fidelity is helping them plan financially.

Last year, the AARP Public Policy Institute estimated that the average boomer born between 1946 and 1955 will have total wealth of $859,000 at 67. The average boomer born between 1956 and 1965 will have total wealth of $839,000 at 67.

Those totals surpass the wealth of current 67-year-olds, who have an average wealth of about $560,000, the research shows.

Advisers at Fidelity, which recently hired ex-Beatle Paul McCartney as a frontman, remind retirees that they should consider planning and saving for discretionary items such as golf club memberships and travel.

Americans are living longer on average than their parents and have a 25 percent chance of living until 97.

The average life expectancy of a boomer is 83, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2002, the average life expectancy for Americans born that year was 77.

Fidelity’s Ms. Morrison cites an example of a boomer-age couple who has been together since they were teens. They have always enjoyed dancing and are choosing to use their retirement to open a dancing studio.

“The revenue from teaching has helped them go on the trips they wanted to take,” says Ms. Morrison, who is also a baby boomer.

Fidelity’s tag line in its McCartney commercials is “Never stop doing what you love.”

Doing good

Volunteer groups are hoping that civic-minded boomers will be generous with their time and money.

Organizations such as the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) predict that boomers are likely to donate to worthy causes and volunteer more than generations past because of their sheer numbers and increased wealth.

“I don’t think you see many of our generation sitting around the house and not doing much,” says Tom Blake, a dating-advice columnist for the Orange County Register in Southern California, who also owns a deli.

Carter Flemming of Alexandria, who became a full-time volunteer when her children were grown, encourages boomers to get engaged in their community.

“This is my work,” says Mrs. Flemming, 57, a former Capitol Hill staffer. “It keeps you young. It keeps your mind engaged. The rest of the boomers are going to end up just like me, they are not going to have a job they go to every day so they are going to be looking for things that give their life meaning.”

She volunteers at the Campagna Center, which runs Head Start programs and an after-school program in Alexandria.

She also serves on a housing authority to help with a senior high-rise apartment, works with the Red Cross and is a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children.

“You can only travel so much, and you can only play golf so much until you wonder what is your purpose in life,” Mrs. Flemming says. “Leisure activities can’t sustain us for 30 years, and you can make a difference.”

She believes her generation was deeply moved by activists in the ‘60s.

“We saw the effect that we could have on changing policy direction in our country, and we’ve never lost that sense that you can do so much when you get together as a group and apply pressure to government,” she says. “People power is one of the solutions, and boomers are big in numbers.”

Mrs. Flemming is a spokeswoman for a new Web site run by CNCS, www.getinvolved.gov, which connects boomers with volunteer activities.

Staying fit

The CNCS campaign aims to shift the nation’s focus on aging from a picture of dependent, frail seniors to one of active and vibrant boomers who are engaged in volunteer work.

That sense of community has sparked a transformation of retirement homes, once thought of as sterile places that grandchildren would never want to visit.

“Boomers want to upscale, not downscale and keep the same lifestyle,” Ms. Remez says. “They don’t want to live in nursing homes.”

Developers are scrambling to create attractive condominiums and apartments near colleges that will be run with active boomers in mind.

According to Retirement Living News, developers are building homes and apartments for retired boomers that are “tech-ready,” with satellite television and home offices wired for high-speed Internet access.

Many boomers also want swimming pools to keep fit.

Arizona, home to many golf courses and spas, has become a favorite retirement spot.

Ms. Remez says fewer than 5 percent of the American population today will go to a nursing home, and most boomers are more health-conscious than any other past generation, embracing alternative medicine, healthful foods and yoga classes.

Loving longer

The generation of free love is no less passionate today than in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“Dating is alive and well,” the AARP’s Ms. Remez says. “Sex doesn’t end after 50.”

She notes that 30 percent of baby boomers are single, attributing the statistic to the feminist movement, which encouraged women to be more independent and seek jobs outside the home.

Women are more likely to initiate separation or divorce proceedings than they were before the feminist movement, she says, adding that many boomer women have never been married.

In addition, men and women of boomer age are enjoying the benefits of Viagra, Ms. Remez says.

AARP research shows that boomer-age women, who have a higher divorce rate than other women, prefer to date younger men. Another study shows that more than half of boomers believe sexual activity is a critical part of a good relationship.

“To them, sex is enjoyable, and many would be quite unhappy if they never had sex again,” according to the 2004 AARP study “Sexuality at Midlife and Beyond.”

The study also shows that one-third of boomers have sex at least once a week and that many boomers seek information about sex from the Internet.

Increased divorce rates among boomers and older couples has sparked the proliferation of dating sites on the Internet, says Mr. Blake, who also runs the Web site findingloveafter50.com.

The divorce rate was 3.7 out of every 1,000 people in 2004, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The national rate has been decreasing each year, the center says.

A Knowledge Networks study shows that 56 percent of boomer singles are separated or divorced, while 31 percent have never been married.

In 10 years, when the boomers are looking for love, “the dating sites probably will explode,” he says.

Already, the sites get millions of visits each month from boomer-age singles.

The actual dates look a lot different from previous generations. Couples might explore an arts festival or go hiking.

“I’m seeing a lot of the AARP folks take life and grab it pretty hard and get out there and do stuff,” Mr. Blake says.

Older performers like Neil Diamond and the Rolling Stones are the hottest tickets in town in part because boomers can afford the tickets.

In 2004, the top-selling tours included Madonna, with 900,000 attending, and Prince, with 1.5 million tickets sold.

Boomers have outgrown the motto of “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” but Ms. Remez says with a laugh, “They certainly don’t want to be called ‘elderly,’ ever.”

Part II

Boomers slow down, but won’t quit

Part I

America’s starting to look a lot older

Part IV

Business targets boomers’ money

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