The Retiree Revolution:
'Some of us
are ticked off'
BY CAROL LARSON
Hi, I’m Carol and I’m retired. Now without thinking, does your mind immediately picture someone ancient and befuddled, physically and mentally in decline? That’s one of the ageist stereotypes applied to retirees–people who are worn out, dried up and a burden on society.
Just so you know, I’m an active 59 years old. I work out four times a week, and I just finished writing my first book.
Granted, I retired early, adding one more to the 8,000 Baby Boomers who, starting in 2011, retire every single day. We are people who, on average, will live 20 to 30 years past retirement age.
But before you start wailing that the economic sky is falling because of the burden we pose to the Social Security and Medicare systems, know this: most retirees today are still healthy, and probably will remain so for years.
Another thing you should know about the new retirees? Some of us are ticked off.
Why? Because of the stubborn stereotype foisted on us, not only that we’re old and decrepit, but worst of all, that when a person retires we will never make another meaningful contribution to the world ever again. I mean how could we? We’re not WORKING.
Well, kids, welcome to the next revolution. Surveys over the last few years show most Boomers have no intention to stop working. Oh, we’re going to retire, but not to crawl off and die, or slide into 30 years of forced leisure. We’re retiring in order to live–and work–in the ways we want.
Why? Because Boomers have always anchored their identities to their jobs and careers. What boomers do for work defines who they are. Just because we decide to collect out pensions doesn’t change that. What it does change is the kind of work Boomers intend to do.
Baby Boomers are, speaking in general terms, altruistic. We believe we can make the world a better place. Those surveys also show the work Boomers want to do in retirement is often in education, health care or social services, and we’ve set our collective sights on joining the nation’s struggling non-profits. Just a heads up there, folks. So prepare yourselves.
Many Boomers talk about working at least part-time because we have to, to supplement pensions and IRAs that shrunk in value during the recession. But it’s also because we want to do something meaningful with the rest of our lives, to work for a cause, for personal satisfaction, for a purpose…not just to leave a legacy, but to live that legacy, leaving the world in better shape because of their contributions.
Why do Boomers think we can do that? Because we already have! Baby Boomers were the demographic shove behind most social revolutions of the last decades, like civil rights, feminism and the environmental movement. Historically, whenever Boomers run into a barrier we don’t like, we bust it down with the sheer force of our giant collective will.
And the wall we are now running into is the social and professional barrier of retirement.
Oh, pshaw, you say. There’s nothing preventing a retiree from working or pursuing a new purpose in life. I thought that once, too. Was it just me? Why couldn’t I get anywhere? All those unreturned phone calls and emails, the indulgent smiles from working (more…)
How My Grandma
in Ghana Helped
Me Reclaim My
BY VANESSA NYARKO
I’d been in college at the University of Minnesota just shy of four months when it hit me. “Why am I not happy?” I asked myself. “I finally made it here, but what now?”
This had been my dream–a chance to make something of myself. College was something some people could only dream of. But here I was, lying on a hard mattress in my dorm room, looking above me at the decaying white ceiling covered with glow-in-the-dark stars, wondering, “Why don’t I enjoy learning anymore?”
Let me backtrack a bit.
My story starts in Accra, Ghana where I was born in 1994. But at the age of two my parents left to study abroad and work in the United States, to start a better life. They left me in the temporary care of my wonderful grandmother. She was one of the most intelligent and fantastic people I knew growing up so that’s how my childhood ended up: fantastic. My brother and I called her “Antieakua.” She was pulled out of school in third grade to work on her father’s farm in the mountains of Ghana. Although she lacked formal education, she was wiser than most. She taught me how to cook, as best a toddler could, and how to survive in the bustling city of Accra. When we’d go to the marketplace to buy food she’d teach me all of her bartering tricks. The vendors were always confused by my advanced hustling tactics.
At the same time, I taught Antieakua how to read my books, and shared with her all the other lessons I learned in school. My grandmother would constantly tell me that since she never had the opportunity to finish school, she wanted to make sure that I learned everything in the world to make up for her loss.
Over in the States, my mom and dad were both working to pay for my brother’s and my expensive private school in Ghana. They wanted the best education for us that we could possibly get because, just like my grandmother, education is everything to my parents. Eventually, they decided to bring my brother and me to America for that very reason—to better our educational opportunities.
So, at the age of seven I packed up my favorite books and crossed the Atlantic. I landed in Chicago. I loved the Windy City–the sights, the people and even the signs. Every opportunity I got, I read billboards, posters, flyers, etc. I’d even write down what I saw and read and then share my new learning adventures with Antieakua when she called. We’d speak about book fairs and bake sale flyers I took from school; she’d just laugh and tell me to keep it up.
My parents enrolled me in South Loop Elementary (more…)