Longevity and technology are transforming the way people retire
In fact, when social security was first introduced in the US in the 1930s, the average life expectancy at birth was just 58 for men and 62 for women. But today—though still rare—it’s not unheard of to celebrate grandma’s 100th birthday. Studies suggest that if life expectancy rates continue to increase at the speed they’ve experienced since the 1800s, centenarians may be the norm by the year 2100.
Those who plan to retire in the 21st century will experience post-career life in a wildly different way than previous generations. While people used to look forward to 10 or so years of golfing, fishing, and globetrotting, the retirees of the not-too-distant future may need to plan on decades of retired life.
Empowered by the potential of longer lives, today’s retirees are getting creative about how they spend their time, shifting focus to more productive endeavors. Technological advancements and innovations in connectivity, mobility and the sharing economy have made retirees’ lifestyles much less passive than the stereotypes of the past.
In the “typical” retirement scenario of the future, second-act opportunities abound. Already, people over the age of 55 comprise America’s fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs, and more and more older Americans are picking up part-time work like editing, consulting, or customer service. Technology has also given this cohort access to skill-building tools, like massive open online courses (MOOCs) at top-tier universities, and online learning resources like Coursera. Using these platforms, older adults can hone skills ranging from 101-level business acumen to bilingualism to playing the accordion.
Sharing-economy platforms have also created numerous ways of generating passive income. Renting out a vacation home on a platform like Airbnb makes it simple to put property to work. Some retirees even sign up for gig-economy stints through online freelance marketplaces, or the like to offset the growing lack of company-offered pensions.
Social media, too, has opened doors for communication and community-building among retirees. It’s never been easier to connect with friends, family, and like-minded strangers on the opposite side of town—or even across oceans. And before you surmise that the 65+ age group tends to be technologically inept, think again: Social media use among this demographic tripled between 2010 and 2016.
There are even dedicated social networks for people over a certain age, catering to a fifties-plus crowd, and dating sites solely intended for seniors. All this social stimulation bodes well for longevity—science suggests that maintaining social connections in retirement can boost health, increase happiness, and reduce the risk of dementia.
The state of retirement is continually evolving. To take full advantage of all the opportunities inherent in the retirement landscape of the future, smart planning is paramount.
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