6 Trends That Are Changing Retirement in America

During the course of your working career, many factors such as technology and globalization have changed the work environment in countless ways. Many societal changes have impacted your personal life as well. It should come as no surprise that many of these same factors have also changed the retirement landscape. Some changes are positive, some are unwelcome, and some are simply different. But viewed as a whole, your retirement will be significantly different from your parents’ and your grandparents’ retirement.

Here are six trends that are reshaping retirement.

1.  Greater diversity

One of the most pronounced trends in corporate America over the past quarter century has been the diversification of the workforce. This trend has been driven by the increase in immigration, particularly from India, China, Mexico, and the Middle East.

As these workers age and enter retirement, the demand for senior accommodations and services, from active adult communities to skilled care, will change. Similarly, the increased visibility and empowerment of the LGBT community will drive changes to accommodations and services.

To date, the senior service industry has been slow to respond. Active adult communities are still predominantly white and politically conservative. LGBT people have experienced horrific treatment in nursing homes, and many who are approaching their older years are apprehensive about their available options.

Just as diversity awareness, training, and policy changes have proliferated across corporate America, the senior services industry will need to follow suit to best serve the needs of their changing clientele.

2.  Technology and connectedness

Baby Boomers who are entering retirement represent the first wave of people who, on a broad scale, are computer-savvy and accustomed to using technology on a daily basis. Since today’s Boomers have integrated technology into their personal lives as well as their work lives, it is unlikely that they will abandon their computing devices as they enter retirement.

In many respects, the ease of shopping, communicating, researching information, and consuming entertainment on the internet will make retirees’ lives easier, especially for those with decreased mobility or those whose families are dispersed. The computer skills that many retirees have acquired throughout their careers will enable them to engage in entrepreneurial pursuits and creative endeavors and remain mentally stimulated.

However, spending hours in front of a computer could have unhealthy ramifications. It could lead to a more sedentary lifestyle and result in less real-life human contact.

3.  Exploding healthcare costs

The skyrocketing costs of health insurance premiums and some prescription drugs are perhaps the most worrisome trend for those who are entering retirement prior to age 65, when Medicare eligibility takes effect. For those who leave the workforce involuntarily and are forced to retire sooner than expected, incurring these costs often has a catastrophic impact on their retirement savings and the amount of money available to spend in other ways.

Staggering health insurance and drug costs are compelling many retirees to return to the workforce simply to receive health benefits through their employer or to earn the money needed to pay for their healthcare.

4.  More retirees working or engaged in entrepreneurial pursuits

For some retirees, retirement really does mean kissing work goodbye forever and spending the rest of their lives engaged in leisure pursuits. But for many, some form of work will be a part of their retirement lifestyle for years to come.

There are many reasons why people who are retired from their primary careers continue to work. Some need the money. Others miss the routine, the challenge, and the interaction with other people. Still others seek the satisfaction of launching their own business or doing work they are passionate about. And there are some who simply want to relieve boredom and don’t know how else to spend their time.

5.  Changing recreational preferences

The choice of recreational activities is gradually shifting as the Baby Boomer generation heads into retirement. A 2016 study by the Physical Activity Council revealed some interesting findings.

Activities that are increasing in popularity include camping, bicycling, hiking, and canoeing. Activities that are decreasing in popularity include golf, swimming for fitness, and working out using machines or weights.

While some shifts may be attributable to how strenuous the activity is, others appear to rise or fall depending on the cost to participate. These shifts have ramifications for active adult communities with regard to the amenities that they have traditionally provided for their residents.

Another interesting finding is that physical activity tends to increase based upon one’s income. Many sporting activities require money to purchase clothing and gear and pay for the costs of participation, such as gym memberships and greens fees. If retirees feel squeezed by inflated health care costs or insufficient savings, they have less money available for physical activities.

The trend towards retirees spending more time using technology or continuing to work also impacts how much time those retirees spend engaging in physical activities. The Physical Activity Council’s report indicates that people who were very active in physical pursuits during their working years are likely to remain so in their later years, but those who engaged in lower levels of activity are likely to see those levels drop as they age.

6.  Increased focus on creativity and pursuit of passions

There are many generational differences between older retirees and the Baby Boomer generation who are now in their 50s and 60s. While it is risky to categorize large groups of people using broad brush strokes, certain characteristics do apply in many cases.

Older retirees often worked for only one company, lived frugally, saved well, and planned for a traditional retirement of leisure activities such as golf and card games. Their one-company career probably provided them with a good pension. In many cases, their retirement vision included moving to a retirement village in a warmer climate or being a snowbird.

The Baby Boomer generation is more independent, educated, and free-thinking. They sought personal growth, gratification, affluence, and purpose. They probably changed employers or careers several times and most people didn’t earn a pension. In retirement, they are less likely to slow down and kick back. They are more inclined to engage in creative pursuits that bring meaning and satisfaction to their lives, such as writing, performing music, or creating art. They can indulge these passions now that they don’t need to rely on them to produce income.  They are more likely to want to stay in the mainstream of society and live closer to an urban center than to retreat to a retirement village.  

All of these factors are interesting to observe, but they can also help people who are approaching the end of their working career envision how their retirement lifestyle will take shape. These changing trends are also relevant to businesses and institutions who serve the retired population so that they can adapt to meet the needs of a new generation.

Please feel welcome to comment below. 

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Reprinted from my blog on U.S. News – On Retirement.
© 2017 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Arrows: fotographics1980 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Diverse retirees: National Guard Officers Association & Enlisted National Guard Association of Florida. Some rights reserved.
Hands on laptop: Thomas Lefebvre.
Blood pressure monitor and pills: stevepb.
Business Start Up Centre: Gwydion M. Williams. Some rights reserved.
Two men riding bicycles: James Schwartz. Some rights reserved.
Saxophonists: John. Some rights reserved.

4 Responses

  1. William DeyErmand says:

    Hi Dave.
    Keeping our minds active with playing an instrument , a hobby or reading a book keeps the brain cells active. This is just as important as a yearly physical with blood work. Being around the younger generation can update us on new technologies, and can keep us more socially aware of events in the community.
    Genetics aside, we have to be as active as physically possible to maintain working. I invested in ankle weights, 2lbs, that wrap around the ankles and 5lb hand weights to strengthen my joints, after a knee injury. I know I will have to work part time in retirement as the medical co pay costs have tripled in 5 years. Not to mention the premiums. It is also important when a person wants to relocate for retirement that they check out the hospital and nursing home ratings in the desired location before moving there. Staying on top of things in your life mentally and physically keeps us independent.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi William,

      Thanks for your comment! You are so right about checking out the quality of doctors, hospitals and nursing homes in any area you are considering moving to.

      Thanks to playing my trombone in a community band and several jazz ensembles, I get to hang around younger people. They keep me current and feeling younger in so many ways!

  2. Kenny says:

    #3 is the most worrisome. (For me, at least; I am the least diverse person you can imagine- middle-aged, white, male heterosexual. I truly support diversity & inclusion, but I cannot say I have ever felt the least impact of prejudice or bigotry, and may never.) But understanding just what these exploding health care costs can mean in our retirement years underscores how important it is to take control of your health now…eat right (and less), move more (and vigorously at times) and stimulate your mind. A few of us will get dealt a bad hand from genetics or random disease, but most of us can take direct & simple action to improve our health, which can reduce the impact of those healthcare costs.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Kenny,

      You’re not alone. In one of the first emails I send to new subscribers, I ask them what’s the one thing they are most concerned about as they approach retirement, besides having enough money. Health care costs are by far the highest response. Nothing else even comes close.

      I’m working on an article and a special report on that now. And you’re correct that one of the few things we can do is to increase our efforts to take better care of ourselves.

      Thanks for your comment!

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