They say the only constant is change, and—just as Dylan sang in the mid-60s—times they are a-changin’. When it comes to retirement, that means a lifestyle that has come a long way from trading a successful career for a quiet life of shuffleboard by the beach. Modern retirement has evolved along with our changing society, from lifestyle and finances to home designs and retirement destinations.
As the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age, they are again redefining expectations. Societal factors, like extended life expectancies, better health and a strain on the Social Security system, have changed the landscape of life after retirement. In fact, many people who reach retirement age aren’t actually retiring at all.
A longer lifespan means adults who retire at 65 (or earlier) will need a substantial nest egg to see them through 30+ years without an outside income. Better health also makes many adults feel like they aren’t yet ready to retire just because they reach a certain birthday. They enjoy contributing to society, interacting with co-workers and having the personal satisfaction of a successful career.
Once they do decide to retire, that may not be the end of working either. While their grandparents may have retired into a life of leisure, many of today’s active adults continue to work full or part-time jobs after retiring from their primary career. Despite being retirees, they may take on consulting work, turn a hobby into a second career or start their own new businesses.
This sense of purpose and personal fulfillment can be met through continuing education programs as well. Colleges and universities across the country offer lifelong learning opportunities for older adults through special classes, lectures and other programs. Some active adult communities have their own lifelong learning centers where residents can learn about a wide range of subjects. Beyond local programs, retirees also have the flexibility of turning to online learning programs, and they aren’t afraid of using the Internet to expand their horizons.
Instead of shying away from technology, retirees today often embrace emerging trends. This is especially true of Baby Boomers who were among the first to grow up with TVs and discovered the wonders of personal computers. A typical retiree’s home may include some state-of-the-art technology including home theater systems and wireless networking. They keep in touch with family and friends through social networking and have smartphones with the latest apps.
Modern homes designed for retirees also commonly include new features including energy-efficient appliances and energy-saving elements like solar panels. Universal design features with an eye toward low-maintenance living make homes comfortable for empty nesters while also letting them gradually age in place.
While many retirees do relocate to resort areas like those in Florida, Arizona or California, staying near family and friends is just as likely. Recognizing this, active adult community developers continue to build new communities in diverse areas throughout the country. Instead of promoting one idea of a retirement lifestyle, these developments are designed with a wide range of amenities to appeal to many different residents.
Perhaps the biggest change in a modern retirement is in its diversity. Today’s retirees can choose the lifestyle and destination which appeals to them the most. They aren’t limited to living their grandparents’ retirement.