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Successful Aging: How well do you understand the new normal for living and working longer? Here’s a

Dear readers:

Recently as a guest lecturer at UCLA, I spoke on the theme of “Work & Retirement: The New Normal.” The lecture was part of a course called Frontiers in Aging that exposed freshman students to the many different disciplines that are part of gerontology. I want to share 10 trends I presented that affect many of us in our everyday lives.

To spare you of an almost two-hour lecture (albeit with interesting interactive activity), here are some highlights in the form of a true-false quiz to help determine myth from reality and the new normal.

1. Many individuals can expect to spend more time in retirement compared to 20 years ago.

2. A large percentage of people will spend less time in retirement.

3. Work and retirement are mutually exclusive.

4. People are working longer.

5. Most successful entrepreneurs are younger.

6. Employers encourage retirement.

7. Employers discourage retirement.

8. Retirement is a slow growth industry.

9. Retirees are the new social capital.

10. Expectations about quality of life rarely change over time.

1. True. We’ve gained about 30 years of life expectancy in the past 100 years. In 1900, life expectancy was 47 years; today it is 78.7 years. More years in retirement would be evident if someone retires early and continues to live 20-30 years.

2. True. This might sound like a contradiction. If life expectancy remains the same and people work longer, traditional retirement might be history. Studies indicate that about one-third of workers plan to work past 70 years of age and about 15 percent indicate that they never will retire.

3. False. A new group is emerging: the working retired. They work because they are able to both physically and mentally, need the income, want a sense of purpose and structure to their day, as well as wanting to stay socially connected. Others just love to work. Note: Some men report the motivation to work is pressure from their wives to “get out of the house” and find a job.

4. True. More older Americans are spending more time on the job than their peers did in previous years according to Pew Research study using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

5. False. Five years after opening, 70 percent of businesses owned by senior entrepreneurs were still in operation compared to 26 percent of younger entrepreneurs. The highest rate of entrepreneurial activity is between 55 and 64 years.

6. True. Retirement often is encouraged to eliminate the costs of older long-term workers who often are paid a higher salary than younger workers. Downsizing also has become the norm to do more with less.

7. True. Employers often want to keep valued employees who happen to be retirement eligible because of skills shortages in certain areas: Health care workers, truck drivers, information technology specialists, construction workers, engineers, sales representatives and skilled trade workers to name a few.

8. False. Retirement and aging are a large growth business. For example, aging and technology is considered a $20 billion industry. Overall older adults are considered responsible for contributing $7 trillion to our economy often referred to as the longevity economy.

9. True. Retirees are increasingly looked upon as social capital, as significant contributors to society. For example, the Encore Network consists of over 130 organizations and members who support the experience and talents of older adults as invaluable resources for improving our communities.

10. False. What distinguishes a large number of retirees today is their high expectation of their next chapter of life. And it’s not all about money, although that is critical. It’s about having a life of meaning and value that goes beyond their work experience.

Times, indeed, are changing into a new normal. We now have the working retired, many moving on to second careers as employers both encourage and discourage retirement. Senior entrepreneurship is soaring. Longer lives and high expectations encourage us to redefine our demographic as contributors and as a valued segment of society. That’s the new normal.

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