The latest buzzwords for Baby Boomers are "reinvent," "reimagine," "encore"—anything that suggests a second chance or a new chapter.
And because Boomers are such a huge market, all sorts of businesses, organizations, authors, life coaches, financial advisors and others are trying to serve the needs of this generation of an estimated 76 million to 79 million, many of whom bristle at the thought of slowing down.
Helping Boomers navigate the future is turning into a big business, spawning career websites such as Encore.org, and books including Second-Act Careers and Reboot Your Career. Life coaches and financial advisors offer more personalized attention, often with a hefty price tag.
But now, there's a freebie: LifeReimagined.org, launching today by AARP, the nonprofit advocacy group serving the over-50 set. The site is free to anyone who registers, not just AARP's 37 million members. "It has an ageless feel to it, and that's by design," says Barbara Shipley, AARP senior vice president of brand.
The site offers goal-setting advice for careers, health and relationships; there's also a private social network called Sounding Board. Organizers envision local events with face-to-face time among peers. Pilot events are planned in Arizona, California, Georgia and South Carolina. There's also the online Life Reimagined Institute for Innovation, which could have a physical home by summer.
LifeReimagined is the latest step for the AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) as it continues to rebrand itself and become the go-to address for feeling good about aging.
"It's about you and what you want to accomplish," Shipley says.
For many Boomers, the old concept of retirement just doesn't register; experts say most either plan to continue in their current job or envision a new career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21% of the USA's civilian workforce was 55 or older as of April; by 2020, it projects a rise to 25%. In 2000, just 13% of the workforce was age 55 or older.
Author Cash Nickerson is well aware of the trend. He's been researching the rapid growth of the 50-plus worker for his upcoming book BOOMERangs, Engaging the Aging Workforce in America, due in August.
"Workplaces, by and large, have always been designed for young people. They just haven't changed," says Nickerson, who heads an engineering and IT staffing firm in Dallas.
In a report out last week from the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the oldest Boomers, turning 67 this year, are making that transition into retirement. The survey of 1,003 people born in 1946 shows that 52% are fully retired, 21% are employed full-time and 14% work part-time. Another 4% are self-employed. Most say they plan to retire fully by age 71; in 2011, the survey found most planned to retire fully by 69.
"The issue of retirement is not like they're stopping in their tracks," says MetLife's John Migliaccio. "They just don't want to be engaged in full-time employment anymore."
The idea of reinvention is appealing, he adds.
"It gets people to take a look at what's important in their lives and provides them with the highest levels of personal meaning."
_ By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY