Retiring at 55 to a life filled with leisurely days of golf and afternoon cocktails is a dying concept, says Ken Dychtwald, psychologist, gerontologist and author of "The Power Years."
When it comes to retirement, "please forget everything you've been told," Dychtwald says in his new book. As the baby boomers reach their "golden years," they are redefining retirement just as they have redefined almost every stage of life up to that point.
More often, people are staying in the work force longer. One major reason is that life is expensive, and as people live longer, they need to work longer to support themselves. But many baby boomers decide to keep working because they are not ready to "fade away." They have more dreams to pursue, and, Dychtwald contends, would be bored if they entered traditional retirement at 55.
Dychtwald offered the following advice to "Good Morning America" viewers entering their "power years."
First, do what you really want to do now. You don't have to impress anyone or earn as much as you've been earning.
Second, reinvent your career. Go back to school or do something you love but have never done professionally.
Third, realize there is a brain drain of boomers leaving the work force so more people will be looking for your expertise and will value it.
Dychtwald offers much more advice in his book, and you can read an excerpt of "The Power Years" below.
Do you long for a life without work or pressure in which your days are spent baking for the grandchildren or playing eighteen holes of golf in the morning, followed by a leisurely lunch and afternoon of bridge, then cocktails, a delicious early dinner, and a good movie? After all, that's how it worked for our grandparents and parents, isn't it? We grew up surrounded by this model of a leisure-filled later life.
Please forget everything you've been told. It's not your obligation to go away just because you're getting older. Nor is it your birthright to cede all responsibility to your community and mankind so that you may lead a life of leisure in retirement. Of course, you may choose these paths if you wish, but in our view that would be a mistake. Certainly there is no guarantee that you'll be able to afford a carefree romp through later life or even that you'll enjoy it if that's where you can afford to wind up. Reinventing yourself and repowerment -- ramping up life where and when you choose and in ways that excite you, not winding down into obscurity -- is the mold-shattering, exciting new stage that will come next for our generation.
While we've had our heads down toiling away these past few decades, spending more time than we might have envisioned at work and raising our children, the world has changed enormously. As we all know, the Internet, global trade, medical breakthroughs, and more are speeding up the pace of life even as life itself is being extended, posing new challenges in our careers and families. In this book, we cannot hope to deal with all the changes confronting our lives. Yet it's vitally important for each of us to appreciate just how different things really are and will become as we move into the next stage of life, a stage that we -- the eighty-four million North Americans born between 1946 and 1964 as well as hundreds of millions more maturing adults around the world -- will redefine as the power years.
The majority of our parents worked for one company all their lives. When their careers ended at age sixty-five, the norm was that they got a nice party and a gold watch and happily hopped on board a slow cruise into the sunset. Forty years of toil behind and the kids now grown, both Dad and Mom were done. They floated over the horizon, eagerly retreating to a life of leisure.
For their employers, it was a great deal. They got to bring in younger, more energetic, and less expensive labor.
For a lot of reasons, many of us won't have the same options that our parents had. For one thing, government and employee-sponsored entitlements have questionable futures, and the idea of early retirement, or even for many of us the idea of retirement at sixty-five, took a quantum leap backward when the global stock market bubble burst in 2000, eroding much of our savings and more than a few of our dreams.
Demographic trends threaten to foist an unprecedented labor shortage on the world economy. Companies of all sizes and shapes are going to want us to stick around longer and will be willing to provide us with a great deal more flexibility to do so. Meanwhile, our careers have been far more mobile. We've bounced among three, four, five, or more employers, often in as many cities, and we won't have been with any one of them long enough for a gold watch, much less the pension and wall-to-wall retirement health coverage that our parents might have been blessed with.
The slow, lazy cruise that our fathers and mothers eagerly signed up for turned out to be a little too slow and lazy. Look hard enough and you'll see that many of our parents have begun to rebel against the idea that they should fade away; they're going back to school and back to work, taking up writing or painting and otherwise reengaging with a society they had dropped out of. Throughout this book we will lean on the experiences of what we call Ageless Explorers, the growing number of leading-edge adults of our parents' generation and some from even farther back, to illustrate the changing nature of the power years. Our hope is that you'll find these anecdotes inspirational and that the glimmers they provide will meld into a beam of light that helps you navigate to -- and through -- your power years.
These years present a unique opportunity for us. The notion of staying in the game longer, of not having to step aside at a set age, will liberate us, setting us free to lead the lives we want to lead by staying engaged, vital, and youthful as long as we like. Opening before us is a whole new stage of life squeezed between our primary career years and a steadily retreating old age. Just as we moved from adolescence into adulthood three or four decades ago, we are now pushing into a whole new period of discovery and personal growth -- what we call middlescence -- as more and more of us make the most of the many fruitful decades that lie ahead.
Our generation is coming to realize that we will have numerous decades to live past the age commonly thought to be the time to stop working. What we do with that time will set us apart from all previous generations.
This book is for people like you who are beginning to contemplate what comes next and how to make the most of it. Make no mistake -- this is not a retirement guide. It's about unretiring -- about how to shed your dated preconceptions about life after forty, fifty, or sixty and stay in the game in ways you'll find satisfying and invigorating. Money is important, and we'll deal with that critical issue in Chapter 7. But that's where this book stops being like anything you've read before. Countless opportunities are developing to let you live all aspects of your life to the fullest -- from staying connected with your kids and grandkids (and, eventually, your great-grandkids) to choosing emerging housing designs and lifestyles for a new, active time in your life with fewer responsibilities; from finding love all over again with your spouse (or someone new, should you be searching) to going back to school for the fun of it; from where, how, and why to make new friends to where and why you should pick up stakes and move to a city or town that will let you live and thrive as you always dreamed.
We'll discover new passions and explore long-dormant desires. We'll stay active by working longer or volunteering, by trying our hand at writing or painting or running a small business, and our continued involvement will promote our well-being and prove a vital resource to the communities in which we live.
You are on a far different life track from that of your parents; you just may not fully understand it yet. But you soon will, and this book is meant to help you as you ramp up your learning curve.
On a recent vacation with his family in Orlando, Florida, Dan was staying at a wonderful resort, the Gaylord, where he observed an apparent oddity that both encouraged and, at least initially, dumbfounded him. The hotel had two equally spacious and convenient swimming pools on either side of the grounds. One was designated as a quiet zone for rest-seeking grown-ups and marked "No One Under 18 Allowed." That pool area might as well have been a mausoleum -- not a single person was in the water. The other pool, by contrast, was overrun with raucous teens and quite a few bawling toddlers.What stunned Dan was that many of the mature adults he would have expected to find at the quiet pool had opted away from that morguelike environ, preferring -- even in some cases with no children or grandchildren in sight -- the lively atmosphere at the pool bustling with the energy of youth.
Which pool will you choose in the years ahead?
When is the last time you seriously asked yourself what you will do with the rest of your life? Is there a second or a third career you'd like to explore? A small business you want to start? Do you want to study art or open a bed and breakfast? Have you dreamed of taking up acting or going to cooking school? Where should you live for the perfect combination of weather, fun, friendships, family, lovers, intellectual stimulation, and lifestyle? What will all that free time do to our marriages and other relationships? Where and how will we live? What will keep our minds active and our lives relevant? Will this be the worst period of our lives -- or could it possibly be the best? Most important: what choices must we make now to ensure the kind of extended life after career that we have always envisioned?
You can't get there if you don't think about it, yet few people ask the key questions. We assume that we can deal with these issues when the time comes, reasoning that as long as we manage to save a lot of money, everything will work out. But this is backward thinking. A big pile of money shouldn't be your primary goal.Who you want to be, what you want to feel, and what you want to do with your power years are the critical considerations, and from those spring the types of choices and trade-offs you'll need to consider.
You wouldn't think of building a house without a plan.You wouldn't go on vacation without thinking through your itinerary and even your wardrobe. So why leave your power years to chance? Even if you're not wealthy, you can enjoy an active, fulfilling, and youthful next stage of life by understanding your goals and creating a carefully thought-out plan that makes those goals possible. In this book, we will guide you through every aspect of this blueprint and show you a wide range of choices and possibilities you may never have considered.
As we step over the threshold into maturity, we will transform the stage of later life known as retirement into something that squares with our generation's desire to work, play, and love on our own terms, staying young in mind and body, and engaging in new pursuits without becoming bogged down with too many numbing obligations. With greater energy and drive, higher expectations for our later years, and a greater willingness to repeatedly reinvent ourselves than any previous generation, perhaps we'll reshape work into something that we can do three days a week, or eight months each year, or seven years per decade. And with extended longevity, why wait until maturity for a long break? Why not take time off along the way? Instead of being stuck on a one-career path for life, why not go back to school, learn some new skills, and reinvent ourselves again and again?
What we're naming the power years has also been called by some our third age, a concept derived from the European tradition of adult education. This view holds that there are three ages of man, each with its own special focus, challenges, and opportunities. In the first age, from birth to about thirty, our primary tasks of life are biological development, learning, and survival. During most of human history, the average life expectancy wasn't much longer than the end of the first age, and as a result, the entire thrust of society was oriented toward these basic drives.
In the second age, from about thirty to sixty, our concerns focus on forming a family, parenting, and work. We apply the lessons we learned during the first age to these responsibilities. Until very recently, most people didn't live much beyond the second age. But with today's longer life expectancies, new generations of youthful, open-minded, and high-spirited men and women are not interested in fading into the sunset at sixty.
A third age, which spans the period from sixty to ninety (and longer), is unfolding ahead of us. This is a less-pressured period in which we can further develop our intellect, imagination, emotional maturity, and wisdom. This is also a period when we can give something back to society based on the lessons, resources, and experiences we have accumulated over a lifetime. We need not be social outcasts, but instead can assume the role of a living bridge between yesterday and tomorrow, and in this way play a critical role that no other group is as well suited to perform.
In recent decades, a small but growing number of older adults have been rejecting the social pressure to "act their age." They have been rebelling against ageist stereotypes and seeking to remain productive, involved, and late blooming well into their mature years.They are everywhere—within our families, among our friends, and in our communities: the executive who becomes a high school teacher; the grandmother who goes back to college or who writes her first book; the accountant who becomes an artist. Ask them when they think they'll start to feel elderly inside, and they'll probably say never!
In his book The Virtues of Aging, Jimmy Carter lit the repowerment path in a single phrase at the end of this telling passage: "In one of her hour-long special interviews, Barbara Walters covered all the aspects of my life, from the farm to submarines, from business to the governor's mansion, service in the White House, and from president back home to Plains.Then she asked me a question that required some serious thought: 'Mr. President, you have had a number of exciting and challenging careers. What have been your best years?' After a few moments I responded with absolute certainty: 'Now is the best time of all.'"
If the past fifty years of boomer evolution have taught us anything, it is this: as we enter each new life stage we keep what we like and replace the rest, like remodeling a house.
We'll be moving and experimenting with new lifestyles. As we stay in the game longer both socially and economically, we'll reshape family and community life. One breathtaking finding from the Merrill Lynch New Retirement Survey surfaced when we asked boomers how they would describe themselves. Ten times as many survey respondents said they "put others first" as said "put themselves first." A far cry from our rambunctious teenage years and our swinging single period, we're now focused on keeping our marriages strong, on trying our best to raise healthy and happy children, and on caregiving our parents (the average boomer now has more parents than children to care for). The me generation has grown up to be a we generation.This attitude shift will reshape philanthropy and volunteerism and may very well be the cornerstone of the new retirement values.Today's retirees have the lowest volunteer rate in the country, while those our age who are actively helping out in our kids' schools and in community churches/synagogues through various philanthropic activities actually have the highest volunteer rate. If this desire to make a difference continues into retirement, we may see a huge change in the role of retirees overall -- from taking to giving.
With the right insight and planning, we'll be able to merge what we most enjoy in our youth -- energy, freedom, flexibility, health, and personal growth -- with the good things that come with age, things such as experience, perspective, wisdom, and depth. One thing is clear: as our massive numbers ultimately catch the wave, the ripples will stretch far and wide.
Why are these becoming the power years? Here are seven reasons why the rest of your life has more potential than you may have considered:
1. We'll Be Living Longer and Healthier
In 1800, the average life expectancy was less than forty years. By 1900, when one in five babies didn't make it to their fifth birthday and common causes of death were diarrhea, influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, life expectancy at birth was just forty-seven years.Thanks to advances in public health, nutrition, and wellness-oriented lifestyles, today the average lifetime has stretched to more than seventy-seven years in all of the modernized nations of the world. Japan has one of the highest expectancies: seventy-eight years for men and eighty-four for women, for an overall average of eighty-one years. The tiny nation of Andorra, squeezed between France and Spain, tops the world charts in this regard with newborn boys likely to reach eighty-one and newborn girls expected to make it to eighty-seven, for an overall average of eighty-four years. The United States is far down the list, with an overall life expectancy of seventy-seven -- behind Singapore (eighty-two), Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, and Italy (all of which have expected average life spans at birth of eighty years). If you've already made it to fifty, you can expect to live at least until your mid-eighties, and thanks to impending scientific breakthroughs, these numbers will keep increasing.
We will live longer and grow old later in life than any previous generation. Incredibly, two-thirds of all those who have made it to age sixty-five in the history of mankind are today walking the earth. We're not just living longer, we are also in better health and enjoy greater youthfulness and vitality.There are more fifty- and sixty-year-olds running marathons, buying Harleys, starting new careers, going to rock concerts, and getting facelifts than ever before. Our increasing longevity and good health, coupled with our natural desire to remain youthful, are the greatest forces behind the power years. But technology and modern medicine are playing vital roles as well. Impending miracle treatments could help us beat everything from arthritis to Alzheimer's, and the arrival of the information age is taking much of the physical toil out of work and other pursuits.
The upshot is that great numbers of people -- not just exceptions -- are able to work and play as they like far longer than anyone might have expected.
2. The Cyclic Lifeplan Will Replace the Outmoded Linear Model
Greater longevity and vitality will change core patterns of society. When people lived just thirty or forty years, life followed a well-defined linear path. We grew up, went to school, worked hard while marrying and rearing a family, and then we died. Everything had its place, and life was too short for second chances. Increased longevity transforms this model. All around us, the linear path is being replaced by something more flexible. As Maddy Dychtwald explained in her book Cycles, now we can cycle in and out of careers -- interspersing periods of rest and retraining. We may end up working longer, but rather than saving all of our leisure for the end of our lives, regular breaks throughout adulthood will become commonplace. Formal sabbaticals and informal work leaves will be part of every major company's standard package of benefits.
The landmark New Retirement Survey that Ken directed in 2004 with Merrill Lynch was based on interviews with more than three thousand boomers (www.totalmerrill.com/retirement). The study found that only 17 percent of them said they intended to stop working for pay forever in their next stage of life. A whopping 42 percent reported that they hoped to cycle in and out of work and leisure for extended periods throughout life; 16 percent expected to continue working part-time; 13 percent were planning on starting their own business; and 6 percent fully intended to keep working full-time right through their retirement years. Incredibly, of the 76 percent who intended to continue working in some fashion, more than half were hoping to do so in a completely new career or line of work!
Further, when asked why so many wanted to stay involved with work, the overwhelming response was not money. Instead, two of three said the main reason was to stay mentally active. Members of our highly educated and productive generation simply don't want to live a life of intellectual stagnation and mental irrelevance.
3. We'll Have a Big -- and Growing -- Pool of Role Models
How about John Glenn going back into space, and what about Sumner Redstone, who in his eighties is chairman of Viacom, and Rupert Murdoch, who at seventy-four is chairman of News Corporation? They are running two of the world's largest media empires as though they expect to be around to see their visions realized decades hence.Who knows? Maybe they will be.
Warren Buffett remains the world's greatest investor midway through his seventies. People magazine named Sean Connery the sexiest man alive in 1989 when he was fifty-nine. Sophia Loren is pretty terrific in her seventh decade of life, too. Joe Paterno, at seventy-seven, signed a four-year contract extension to coach the vaunted Penn State football team.
Late achievement, while multiplying in frequency, isn't altogether new. Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was almost eighty. Groucho Marx launched a new career as a television-show host at sixty-five. George Bernard Shaw was at work on a new play when he died at ninety-four. Galileo published his masterpiece Dialogue Concerning the Two New Sciences at seventy-four. Noah Webster was seventy when he published An American Dictionary of the English Language. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York at ninety-one. Mahatma Gandhi was seventy-two when he completed successful negotiations with Britain for India's independence. I. M. Pei was seventy-eight when he designed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Picasso painted The Rape of the Sabines at eighty-one. Golda Meir was prime minister of Israel from ages seventy to seventy-six. Jessica Tandy was eighty when she won her first Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy. Mary Baker Eddy was eighty-seven when she founded the Christian Science Monitor. At ninety-three, Lillian Gish starred in The Whales of August seventy-two years after starring in the silent film Birth of a Nation. At ninety-four, conductor Leopold Stokowski signed a six-year recording contract. At a hundred, Ichijirou Araya climbed Mount Fuji.
In their day, these remarkable men and women may have been considered highly unusual. But these Ageless Explorers have carved new trails ahead of us and represent the first wave of maturity pioneers. We baby boomers will be next, and we'll turn this thorny trail into a superhighway. Many of us are already thinking ahead. Joel Levinson, fifty-one, has begun to picture his power years as a real-estate investor. He's enjoyed a fruitful career in the advertising business and has run his own agency for the past decade. But he doesn't want to do that forever, and sees real estate as an exciting challenge and a way to build both an income stream for life and his net worth. Joel is in a great spot. He's reaching financial freedom ahead of his own expectations, and he has already begun mapping out how he'll break into the real-estate game, which he has been quietly passionate about for years.
"Every time we plan a vacation, I build in time to go off alone and scout out properties in the area," he says. "I love comparing values and studying what makes one place worth more than another. And lately I've begun to bore friends who are even remotely connected to the real-estate industry -- lawyers, brokers, investors -- with all my talk about getting into the game."
Joel says he's just days away from making his first investment. "Have been for years," he jokes. "There's always another book to read or another property to look at, so I've been slow to pull the trigger. And I'm wary that prices may be a bit inflated these days." But he figures all of his hours studying markets will pay off when he finally buys that first property. Besides, he's enjoyed every minute of his research.
Joel still has two kids at home, so he's in no rush to give up his primary, high-earning career. "The longer I wait, and the more I study, the greater chances of success I'll have when I finally start buying," he says. "I don't intend to take big risks. I'll buy one at a time and keep reinvesting the profits, and see how it works out. I figure I can minimize any chances that I'll lose money. I'll probably do very well, and if nothing else I'll enjoy how I'm spending my time."
4. We'll Be Wiser about What Matters
Having climbed much of the mountain, you now have a pretty good view of life. As we accumulate and make sense of life's lessons, most of us have come to appreciate that the joy that money alone brings is fleeting, and that true happiness revolves around love, relationships, and our sense of fulfillment at work and at play. Most of us reach this basic understanding in our middle years -- sometimes precipitated by the death of a parent, our kids leaving home, or the failure of a career or marriage. But for the most part, by the time we're fifty and still young enough to shape our later years, we understand that money, while it's important, is not what underlies happiness.
Ken recently headed a massive international study with HSBC Bank, The Future of Retirement (www.HSBC.com/ futureofretirement). When eleven thousand people of all ages from regions including Brazil, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States were asked what they believed contributed most to achieving a happy old age, the overwhelming first choice was "loving family and friends." Thanks to the additional longevity we'll be experiencing, we will have both the time and the wisdom to realize what brings true happiness.
In a series of surveys over the past twenty years, Forbes magazine has asked people to rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being "not at all satisfied with my life" and 7 being "completely satisfied." No surprise, those on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest people in the world clocked in with a healthy average response of 5.8. But so did the modest-living Inuit people of frigid northern Greenland, and so did the cattle-herding Masai of Kenya, who live in huts with no electricity or running water.
Tom Hagan of Covington, Ohio, sold his pharmacy business at age fifty-six. But he didn't retire. He remains employed in the industry; he simply gave up the headaches and rewards of ownership. "The secret to life is being fulfilled," Hagan says. "It has nothing to do with money. I have friends who are worth $50 million who are miserable. They hate their wives; they hate their children. I love my life. I'm still working, and I plan to work until I die. I love my new job. It keeps my mind active. I couldn't imagine sitting around and watching TV every day."
5. We'll Have New Freedoms
The kids are gone or soon will be. College and the house are paid for -- well, mostly paid for. In any case, you probably have amassed a fair amount of home equity, and hopefully you've been stashing some money in a retirement plan at work. It's not just that your kids' schooling and the mortgage are mostly taken care of. Things like braces and summer camp and all the things you put in your house are largely paid for; you don't need a lot more stuff. With many of your biggest parenting-related financial obligations coming to an end, you'll be endowed with greater freedom to do the things you've always wanted. Meanwhile, your busy schedule is beginning to let up, providing you with a windfall of free time that will let you take on new challenges or pursue hidden passions and long-suppressed dreams.
And because the economy will want to simultaneously prevent a brain drain and declining consumption by keeping all of us earning and spending longer, it will become easier to stay at work or start a new career. The vacuum of workers maturing means that older adults will be in demand and more able to choose our own schedules, and still remain valuable. With the rise of flextime and part-time schedules and contract and project jobs and job sharing, there are millions of exciting paths for us to explore in the work world—throughout the world.With online universities, we can retrain at home or pursue a life as a writer or artist or some other dream.
6. We'll Still Have Clout in the Marketplace
Our huge numbers and often free-spending ways have ensured throughout our lifetime that anyone with something to sell would be inclined to tailor it to our wants and needs. Our demographic and financial wells of influence won't run dry as we mature. We'll live longer and healthier and remain active consumers. Meanwhile, as a generation, our wealth will continue to multiply. Already, today's fifty-plus men and women are the principal buyers of luxury cars, leisure travel, and high-end gifts and jewelry. We own 40 percent of all mutual funds and 60 percent of all annuities.While we are just 30 percent of the population, we control more than 70 percent of all of the wealth and account for more than 50 percent of consumer spending. As we mature and collectively inherit an estimated $20 trillion, we will be as cherished as ever in the marketplace.
Advertisers will need to break free of their addiction to youth. Many wrongly believe that all adults have already chosen the brands they will stick with for life, while young people have yet to choose their cola, sneaker, cell phone, or whatever. This flawed view will stop paying off; marketers will increasingly come to realize that at fifty or sixty we not only have money to spend but also are eager to ditch our old lipstick for the latest colors. As we age, we will remain interested in new adventures and experiences, and we will spend freely to reach our full potential in the power years.
In the years ahead, watch for growth in industries such as the following:
• specialty diagnosis and treatment centers for particular body parts, such as the eyes, ears, muscles, bones, or nervous system
• therapeutically cloned kidneys, livers, lungs, hearts, skin, blood, and bones for tune-up or replacement
• nutraceuticals engineered with macro- and micronutrients to fight aging
• cosmeceutical rejuvenation therapies for both men and women
• antiaging spas
• high-tech exercise gear and equipment programmed to precisely train users to build stronger, healthier, and more youthful bodies
• smart acoustic systems in telephones, radios, and TVs that customize signals to accommodate the auditory range of each user's ears
• Silver Seals -- for-hire teams of elders with various problem-solving talents who are deployed to fix difficult community or business issues
• lifelong learning programs at colleges, universities, churches, and community centers and on cable TV and the Internet
• "retirement zone" stores featuring products and technologies appealing to older adults with free time
• adventure travel services that send older adults to off-thebeaten- trail locations
• mature employment and career transition coordinators; experience agents -- similar to travel agents -- who can be commissioned to orchestrate any type of request, whether it's a party, learning program, psychotherapy, sabbatical, travel adventure, spiritual retreat, introduction to new friends, dates, or business partnerships
• mature dating services to help the tens of millions of single mature women and men find new relationships
• longevity-oriented communities for health-minded elders
• intergenerational communes
• Club Med-like residences for those who enjoy active social programming
• urban arts retirement communities that focus on cultural pursuits
• university-based intergenerational housing for people who desire lifelong learning
• hedonism complexes for mature swingers
• multinational time-share clubs for those who aren't interested in settling down in one location
• long-term-care insurance financing to provide security against the possibility of late-life chronic health problems
• longevity insurance that, rather than paying an individual's family in case of early death, provides financial support for people who live very long
• estate management and trust services to help families manage the $20+ trillion inheritance cascade that is about to occur
• reverse mortgages to help people who are cash-poor but "brick-rich."
7. We'll Be Open to Change
Personal growth and self-improvement are the new order, and as this mind-set blossoms, it will open the doors to fulfillment and achievement that might otherwise have been stifled.
The world of continuing education may best illustrate the appetites of a generation that loves to learn and grow. Already, a thriving adult-education industry has begun to flourish, including magazines, books, audio, video, Internet learning programs, and adult-education seminars, workshops, and courses. About forty million adults participate in one or more educational activities each year. As the need to continuously upgrade skills becomes a requirement, lifelong learning will become commonplace. In response, colleges and universities have begun to aggressively pursue adult students. USA Today recounted: "admission officers and financial-aid directors from campuses across the USA echo the message: Older students are as desirable -- often more so -- as the traditional 18-to-24 college crowd. And they're just as eligible for grants and loans as their younger brethren. Adults, they say, are better motivated, usually have educational goals in focus, and have experiences to share with younger students."
A quiet revolution is occurring. Students over age thirty-five were just 5.5 percent of higher-education enrollment in 1970; today 22 percent of all college students are over thirty-five. Meanwhile, the percentage of adults age sixty-six to seventy-four who enrolled in at least one adult-education course more than doubled between 1990 and 2000, to 20 percent. Retirees represent 25 percent of the ten thousand University of Chicago students taking noncredit courses in the arts and sciences. The trend toward older students will build as adults of all ages seek to upgrade their knowledge through formal university programs, correspondence courses, and employer-provided retraining. This is a worldwide phenomenon. In one respect, Canadians are leading the way, with 6 percent of all adults enrolled in one or more university courses. South Korea ranks second, followed by Australia and then the United States. But New Zealand, Finland, Norway, Spain, Ireland, and France aren't far behind.
Being a grandpa or a grandma will rock if we plan for those later years now, doing what we must to be able to stay active, in tune, and in touch. Is it possible to stay hip when we've reached the age of grandparenting? Ask Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, or Keith Richards. All of them have kids with kids. They still rock, and none has lost an ounce of cool. When asked about his age, Richards recently commented, "Getting old is a fascinating thing.The older you get, the older you want to get."
We have grown up equating retirement with old age. But with the oldest of our generation starting to celebrate sixty, that's beginning to change. We aren't looking to be old or to wind down. We're looking to begin a whole new life when we reach our fifties and sixties. Having a positive outlook and understanding that life's next chapter is just that -- not the beginning of the end of life -- are vital to making it fun and fulfilling.
The power years are coming, and we want to be your guides.