Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Majority of boomers able to experience Power Years?

Long-time gerontology expert Ken Dychtwald in his new book, the Power Years, suggests that aging boomers are not entering retirement but rather beginning their power years. The boomers are powerful because they have more money, experience and wisdom than they have had at any other time in their lives. However, they seem to have fewer opportunities at their finger tips.

Dychtwald rightly suggests that with the increase in life span, 20-30 years of traditional retirement will not be interesting, stimulating or financially possible for most boomers. Instead, they will seek to reinvent themselves in another career or volunteer opportunity.

It may be quite challenging and unpalatable for boomers to step into another career. Attending a class at the local community college will not create real understanding and experience with new fields or familiarity with modern work force culture, values and mindsets. Boomers will start to appear more often in lower-paid service jobs for which they will have to out-compete immigrants and youth.

Even if a boomer completes the significant amount of effort required to be skilled in a field of the day, say, enterprise software programming or flash web design, and bests hiring ageism, starting at entry or low level may seem like an unrewarding match for the boomer's perceived life skills and experience.

It will need to be truly evolved boomers who can accept greatly reduced status, power and remuneration in their new work force roles. Unfortunately financial exigencies will drive behavior but the under-actualization is an unfortunate personal and societal side effect. It would be nice if corporations would adjust to adequately challenge, reward and utilize boomers who are short on recent technical skill sets and long on wisdom and life experience. However in reality, the boomers are not qualified for what the corporations need and it is hardly usual corporate behavior to accommodate under-qualified workers, it is usually the work force not the employer that does the adapting. Even though there will be an increasing shortage of workers, it will probably continue to be met by outsourcing and automated productivity gains.

The point is that there is an opportunity to help boomers (and really anyone) to actualize. Actualize in the sense of using one's unique skills and competences in a context larger than one's self involving creativity and making a real external contribution. It seems that actualization opportunities for boomers decrease upon their leaving the work force and though everyone has the responsibility to actualize (including figuring out how), current societal and institutional venues for boomers to contribute their real capabilities are not obviously present and there is a tremendous opportunity to create them.


Dawn said...

Interesting topic...and a wake up call as well for this 41 year old! My plan is to set up a "practice" like my Real Estate business while building on my experience and training in technology and build a New York CIO "Rolodex" (worth it's weight in gold!).