Challenging assumptions is the key to developing the creative insights that lead to innovative new products, services and processes. We’re working with a client which is focused on challenging our assumptions about a market and the entire industry serving it: retirement.
When the idea of retirement, with its related US programs — Social Security and Medicare, were first floated in the 1930s, the average age span of Americans was about 62; so starting such programs around age 65 made economic and social sense. Over the years, people’s life spans have increased, with the average span now around 80. With the fastest growing age group being people over 80, someone once noted that someone probably was already born who will live to 150.
During the last part of the 20th century, as adults live longer, healthier and have greater disposable income than ever before, an industry was created to help those who retired from work maximize the rest of their lives – whether they are “golden” or not (e.g., everything from tools and services to new living arrangements, including retirement villages and assisted living arrangements).
The “baby boom” generation itself is in midst of this transition. Born between 1946 and 1964, 78 million Americans have crossed the traditional age for work-retirement (65) or will do so over the next 14 years (at the rate of about 10,000 per day!). The most significant change is that 65 is no longer a key age for this group. Studies by AARP (which used to be the American Association for Retired People) report that people are not planning to retire from some form of work at 65: they intend to continue in their jobs (because of its financial and psychological rewards), assume new “encore” jobs, volunteer and/or participate in philanthropy. Symbolizing this shift, AARP changed its name and audience focus (now people at 50 years and older). Everyone is trying to find new names to address the new reality; calling them the “Unretired”, “Generation Ageless”, etc.
How are you handling this enormous change – both personally and as a corporate leader? Many of us are in the “sandwich generation” – addressing simultaneously our adult needs, those of our children and those of our parents. What issues are you confronting that are challenging? Are you planning on continuing to work past 65 – and for how long? How are you addressing this with your employer? As a corporate leader, what are you doing to tap the experience, wisdom and expertise of this group?
What changes are you making to accommodate their needs in your work place?
(In a recent study, an automobile company, made a minor investment to accommodate the needs of one of its assembly line shifts with mostly older workers, and discovered that, as a result, their productivity was equal to those of two younger teams! It’s likely their engagement level, as a result of such forward thinking, was even higher!) Share your thoughts and experiences on this important topic of what “retirement” means in the 21st century.