For many today, golden years have less travel, more work

But given the surging cost of gas, "there's no way" they can visit their children that often, says Larry Page, 68.

The Pages are cutting back on local trips, too. They've reduced their volunteer activities because of the cost of gas. They enjoy volunteering, Larry says, but "expenses are going up, so we're having to be more realistic about what we can do and can't do."

Looking for extra income

Some retirees are coping by returning to work or finding part-time jobs. Nearly one-quarter of adults 65-74 are in the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 19% in 2000. But in a tight economy, finding a job — or keeping the one you have — is hardly a certainty.

Joce Callegari, 56, of Mesa, Ariz., retired from her full-time job as a director of human resources in 2002 to spend more time with her husband, who has a long-term illness. A year later, she decided to start working again but had trouble finding a job that suited her age and experience. So she started a consulting company, working about 20 hours a week. Recently, though, her main client, a retail business, cut back on her services, citing the economic slowdown.

Callegari says she anticipated the furlough, because her client had recently laid off some of its employees. She put off her plans to buy a vacation home in Maine, where she has relatives, and has done no traveling or made any major purchases since October.

Fortunately, Callegari doesn't have any debt. And she remains confident that she'll be able to find work in the future, once the economy turns around.

"When I was over 50 and having trouble getting hired, I made up my mind that if Madonna and Cher can reinvent themselves, so could I," Callegari says. "I think the key to surviving these times is to reinvent yourself and become what you have to be."

Struggling to pay bills

Not surprisingly, businesses that cater to the leisure activities of retirees are hurting.

Winnebago Industries, a leading manufacturer of mobile homes, said its profits for the three months that ended May 31 plummeted 73% from the same quarter a year earlier. Bob Olson, the company's chief executive, said industry forecasts indicate that overall sales of motor homes will decline this year to the lowest level since 1991.

Elderhostel, a nonprofit that runs educational travel programs for retirees, expects enrollment to drop 7% this year, says President Jim Moses. Moses, who describes the typical Elderhostel member as "comfortable but not wealthy," says his organization has recently heard from members who were forced to back out of scheduled trips because they couldn't afford them.

"Our prices haven't increased significantly, except on the international side because of the weakened dollar," Moses says. But with people's everyday costs rising so much, he adds, members "are struggling to meet their monthly bills."

Much of the decline in enrollment, Moses says, is coming from retirees who used to take two or more trips a year and are now taking just one. The organization is trying to publicize its lower-cost programs for retirees squeezed by inflation.

Yet even in this tighter economy, Moses says, Elderhostel still manages to draw retirees who want to make the most of the years they have left.

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