Changing the world is not an easy assignment – but baby boomers did it once and they’ll do it again.
They tackled civil rights and women’s rights and ushered the country into the digital age of communication and entertainment media. They demanded better health care and more efficient automobiles. They worked alone and worked together to influence both their neighbors and their political leaders. Their list of achievements over the past 60-plus years is undeniably remarkable.
The boomer generation has “never just migrated through stages of life,” says Ken Dychtwald, a specialist on aging. “They always transformed them as they went . . . boomers are not going to grow old like any generations we’ve ever seen.”
And now this cohort of baby boomers – this largest of all generations, born between 1946 and 1964 inclusively – is redefining what retirement means and is on the verge of changing the world again through active volunteerism. Sometimes referred to as the “Senior Tsunami,” this 79 million-member group will begin turning 65 in 2011 and while many now must work longer than expected, large numbers are still likely to commence rolling in waves out of the work force. This powerful tsunami will continue through 2029 and beyond.
Not content to sit on their laurels
Thankfully, the boomer generation is a generation with heart, a generation that is already stepping up, recognizing that they can leave the world a better place for their children and grandchildren. It’s a strong and healthy group with a passion for helping others. Demographers predict the boomers will live longer lives and remain in better physical condition than any predecessor generation.
So, for many, knitting afghans and raising roses will not suffice. Volunteering will become the pathway of choice for many boomers. It will provide a way for them to maintain a social network with people who express their values in similar ways. Some volunteer experiences will also offer an element of adventure – something many boomers desire – without being unsafe or disorganized.
Boomer-rich companies taking note
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a Fortune 500 financial services organization based in Minneapolis, Minn., has 2.6 million members of which approximately 40 percent are baby boomers. When Thrivent reached out to those members to determine what sorts of charitable activities the organization should support, the resounding reply was Habitat for Humanity. Many of these 45- to 60-something Thrivent members were already pounding nails on Habitat construction sites across the nation. They wanted Thrivent Financial to support those efforts.
Based on that information, the company formed a four-year $125 million alliance with Habitat for Humanity International, called Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity. The alliance supported not only the work of the popular home-building nonprofit, it also provided an enhanced means for Thrivent members to become involved or stay involved in an active and meaningful way. Members were offered opportunities to help build homes in their own communities or they could travel in teams with like-minded people to help build homes in specific U.S. locations or abroad.
Thrivent’s approach to connecting with their own boomer members through this alliance was highly successful. They were correct in anticipating that hundreds of thousands of them would be attracted to such an action-packed opportunity. The tangible result is that in just four years a combined total of more than 2,000 homes were built in the United States and in over 30 other countries.
Retiring “to,” not “from”
Along with the sheer size of the boomer generation, its vision of an active retirement is what will spur the group on to changing the world once again. In essence, boomers imagine themselves retiring to a new life, rather than retiring from an old one. They want to be part of something larger than themselves, something they can believe in. The opportunity to contribute something valuable and lasting, to engage their interests, skills and resources, to make a difference in a modicum of time and to slot in a bit of adventure will become paramount.
One of the ways they will meet all those criteria is through volunteerism. The legacy of millions of learned, talented, self-sacrificing people stepping forward to help those less fortunate is thrilling to consider. Imagine a more compassionate world where millions are volunteering and benevolence is the new norm. Those boomers just might pull it off – based on sheer numbers, if nothing else.
Courtesy of ARAcontent