The Baby Boomer Generation: Rewriting Retirement
Boomers as Technological Innovators?
We are a generation that still remembers when technology meant copy machines, pocket calculators, and transistor radios with AM frequency. Now we speak of quantum computing, The Cloud, and real-life rollouts of artificial intelligence.
It wasn't easy hurtling through technology's timeline. But we had no choice.
Unlike our WWII era parents, we were forced to adopt this new gadgetry as it arrived on the scene. Juggling diapers, career building, and MS DOS....for the sake of our children.
If computers were the wave of the future, then we would add keyboards and modems to the toy chest of a new generation.
Will we be any less adaptive as we enter retirement? Any less brave in the face of change?
I say no! The technology of retirement will never be the same. Because...
BABY BOOMERS WILL NOT.
We will not unplug from rapid innovation.
We will not cease learning, growing, and expanding our lives.
We will not surrender to days of physical and mental simplification.
So the only question left is...."What WILL we do?"
Many talk of purpose. Reinvention. A second chapter.
In today's technologically driven society, our options are greater than ever. For online classes abound. Pick a hobby, find a class, listen to an inspiring speaker. Peek into podcasts featuring amazing second acts from all points on the globe.
And yet we still wrestle with how to balance real human contact...with virtual reality. How to reinvent ourselves when isolation and loneliness are a greater factor (for all ages) than at any other time in history.
And so, at a time when our parents may have gathered around rocking chairs and bingo games, here we are....talking of purpose and passion, as if our lives depended on it.
As a matter of fact...they do. Let's have a look at some scientific data that just might support our esoteric ramblings.
The Benefits of a Purposeful Life
- In a seven year study, seniors with "high purpose" were 2.4 times more likely to remain free of Alzheimer's than those with low scores.
- High purpose also slowed the rate of mild cognitive decline by about 30%.
- Purposeful people are less likely to develop disabilities.
- Mortality rates in the study period were 50% less for those with a high purpose.
There's not much to argue with here. But you might be wondering...
What exactly is required to apply this data to our own golden years?
What types of activities qualify as "high purpose"? How many hours per day? Does it have to be a service oriented venture? How can we find the right opportunities given limitations due to finances, community, or mobility?
Perhaps a couple of official research driven definitions will help the conversation along.
Purpose refers to the tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences. To possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior.
Meaning requires self-reflection. Which includes a synthesis of diverse experiences into a narrative. And awareness of one's role and potential within the broader context of society.
The steps might look like this.
- Pick a meaningful goal.
- Set intentions.
- Act upon your intentions.
- Reflect upon your experiences throughout the process.
Many Boomers Will Find themselves Confused at This Point
Because prior goals and intentions were created simply to complete a highly impersonal adult checklist of requirements. All for the prize of financial security and family stability. So...what does "meaningful" mean to us now?
Perhaps it's been a long time since you chose experiences for yourself. Maybe, this too, sounds like striving. And you have to admit that you aren't yet ready to launch another series of achievement steps in your life. What then?
Skip all this crap about purpose. And find out what brings you joy.
Is there still a bit of rebel in you?
Remember, we are the generation who burned bras, protested war, and expounded free love to a world of morality enforcers. With today's technology in hand, and a fond remembrance for free speech, we will rewrite retirement. Based on only one ideal.
What if our purpose is simply....The Process?
If that was true, we couldn't get it wrong. There would simply be: 1)choices that interest you, 2)followed by a reflective process, 3)which in turn informs new choices.
Kind of simplifies things.
And according to the data, as long as we believe this is a meaningful way to live, we will continue our journey as rascally senior Boomers, ever ready for a personal rebellion.
Oh, and just in case you've forgotten how to find a joyful activity, here are a few categories to consider. Try them all. Even if you think they are the last activity on earth you would ever choose for yourself.
And don't forget to take time to reflect. You'll know you've hit a winner when you are so highly engaged that you lose all sense of time. And the minute you stop, your mind begins eliciting a string of questions...for the next session.
A Baby Boomer's Exploration into The Seven Wonders of Retirement
Look what I created WONDER: Painting, sculpting, photography, sketching, building projects...
Nature inspired WONDER: Hiking, traveling, gardening, landscaping, environmental activism, visit local parks to explore local wildlife
Exploration WONDER: Stay abreast of new technology, use it to research topics of interest, visit related sites, interview key players, and connect with others
Self Discovery WONDER: Journal writing, art journals, personal development courses, support groups, memoir writing...
Human Connection WONDER: Volunteer, family and friend get-togethers, game night, clubs, writing groups, start a Meet-Up group
Body WONDER: Dance, gym membership, tai chi, yoga, cooking classes, healthy eating makeover...
Literary WONDER: book clubs, contemplate inspirational quotes, revisit your local library/used book store, share/trade books, write a blog about your favorite reads
If it isn't yet clear, the discussion of purpose and joy are intimately tied. Cannot be separated. Because joy leads to purpose, and purpose leads to joy. If you have any old stories replaying in your mind that purpose has to be a dismal sacrifice...take it to your journal.
Give yourself a break. You've earned it. You don't have to have a grand plan for how everything plays out in your life. Simply allow the natural process of exploration and wonder to define each moment. The world will be a better place because you did.
PS Don't skimp on journal reflections. Because if you're going to rewrite retirement .... writing helps.