By Marc Freedman, Ode Magazine
Picture this: A fit, handsome sixty-something couple stretches out on a sandy beach. Another silver-haired pair steers a sailboat toward the sunset. A grey-templed golfer watches his drive soar down the fairway. This life of relaxation and luxury, in which every day is one big happy holiday, has long been a powerful part of the American dream of retirement. Depicted in so many advertisements for pension plans and retirement communities, these scenes have become an indelible feature of the landscape.
But wait a minute: Who looks forward to endless retirement anymore, 30 years of R and R? Who can afford it–even with the most diligent savings plan? For reasons of money and meaning, the golden-years vision being peddled by the financial and real estate industries is already obsolete. Stretched from a justified period of relaxation after the mid-life years into a phase lasting just as long, this version of retirement has been distorted into something grotesque, something that no longer works for individuals–or for society.
In the next couple of decades, more and more people will hit the traditional retirement age and become eligible for social benefits. This trend has experts worried: Soon a quarter (or more) of the population will be spending a third (or more) of the time in subsidized leisure, squeezing investments in education, environment and economy and threatening to bankrupt society as a whole. The prospect alone has led some pundits to predict that aging boomers will be remembered as a self-absorbed, self-serving horde of over-indulgers who used their votes and their dollars to shove their own interests to the forefront, posterity be damned.
Next: Dusting off the idealism of the ’60s and ’70s