This post, written by Jenn Pointer of GenXrestrux, was originally guest-posted over on Jen X Journal, a website and blog by Jenn Pike. Yes, we are two different people, living on two different continents with the same first name blogging about GenX. 🙂 Also, be sure to check out @jenxjournal on Facebook and @jenxjournal on Instagram!
The oldest members of Generation X are now in their 50s and heading into that stage of life traditionally known as “retirement.” Generations before us either saved up for a life of leisure in their later years or were forced into retirement due to being physically or mentally unable to perform their job duties. The process of preparing for retirement has been big business for several decades – with mixed results.
While it’s true that there have been rebels in previous generations who simply defied aging and continued to work until they were very elderly due to good genes, good health, or just plain stubbornness, this is the first generation in the Modern Era that probably just isn’t going to retire.
THE BAD NEWS
For starters, many of us who are still here really didn’t expect to live long enough to retire.
There were fewer of us born to start with due to the use of birth control and abortion becoming more widespread, and we’ve already lost a disproportionate number of our cohorts to AIDS, opioids, drug overdoses, cancer and suicide. In our teen and young adult years, our culture was all about partying like it was 1999 because no one could really imagine life beyond that.
For the majority of us who made it through Y2K, a traditional retirement it just isn’t going to be financially feasible.
Modern banking has made easy credit (instead of savings) our primary method of financing our needs and wants. The vast majority of us don’t have thirty years of living expenses saved up to properly fund a traditional retirement. We’ve lived through enough recessions and financial scandals to have lost faith in the idea of investing very much for the future. We’ve watched our elders lose everything at the end of their lives when they entered assisted living programs and had to apply for public assistance. The general attitude of so many 40- and 50-somethings about retirement planning is basically, ”What’s the point?”
THE GOOD NEWS
The good news is that because of the technological developments in the last thirty years or so, we probably won’t actually NEED to retire. The problems of aging that have traditionally forced people into retirement are increasingly being addressed and solved with technology.
The ability to do more and work more from home solves issues of mobility and the need for privacy in dealing with the potentially humiliating symptoms of aging. The Internet is alleviating the issues of isolation and loneliness often associated with becoming elderly. Short-task apps meet the needs of many who might have previously found themselves needing living assistance. GPS security devices are allowing people to remain independent in their own homes far longer than ever before.
Gen X is the first generation that will be almost 100% “tech-savvy” heading into retirement. Unlike previous generations, most people in this age group have been using computers all of our adult lives, and are accustomed to the permanence of change. We started with black and white TVs, landlines, and boom boxes. We bought the first car phones and home computers – on credit – some of us are still paying for those. And we collectively figured out what an “app” for.
Every few months, we have had to learn the new ins-and-outs of internet security for the sake of protecting not only ourselves but the older folks and the kids in our families. We’ve intuitively developed the mental agility to absorb the shock of changing the way everything is done every few years.
The technology already exists to turn anyone’s home into an assisted living center at an affordable price. Ecommerce is quickly developing to help anyone work to make a living wage in spite of almost any physical disability (age-related or otherwise). We have options that have never been available before to help keep most people safe and independent as long as they want to be independent.
If retirement homes are still “a thing” when our generation finally decides to move into one, it’ll mostly be for entertainment rather than need. Instead of sitting rooms and dining halls full of people in wheelchairs, these group homes are more likely to be filled with people in their 80s and 90s walking around, some with the use of advanced prosthetics, playing with VR devices, and carrying on their business in cafes and galleries that the residents design and operate. Instead of broken-hearted elderly people crying because they have no family left or their grandkids don’t visit often enough, these residents will be busy chatting with people all over the world and continuing to learn about topics that interest them.
And hopefully, there will be some really good music playing, like Bon Jovi, or The Boss.