Just don't call it retirement.
"Nobody retires anymore," says Maureen Cavaiola. “I’m re- fired.” A sociologist with a masters degree in aging, Cavaiola is chair of the Maryland Baby Boomer Initiative Council, a body designated by the legislature to, in her words, “make sure the state understands that we have a huge contingent of educated, working boomers.”
Even terms like “boomer” irk her. “As soon as you draw the line in the sand” by defining a group according to age, she says, “you enter ageism.”
The truth is, 75 million people were born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1964, the so-called “baby boom,” and few consider themselves old. Neither, they insist, should anyone else. In Maryland, the percentage of people over 60 is projected to increase to 25 percent of the overall population—that’s 6.7 million—by the year 2030. But don’t expect them to blindly follow the previous generation’s retirement rule book.
“This is also a generation that is used to saying, ‘If I don’t like your rules, I don’t have to follow them,’” says Judah Ronch, dean of University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Erickson School of Aging Studies, so it’s unlikely they’ll go gentle into that good night.
The Boomer Initiative Council was created to take advantage of the energy and talents of the mature population, says Cavaiola. “In the past, we’ve looked at aging as something that will suck the resources out of our community.” But the upcoming elders “will be assets,” she says. The highly educated older adults in Maryland will continue to work, many at “re-firement” careers, mentoring, and giving back.
And of course, others will just want to take advantage of the perks that come with leaving the stresses of full-time work. But don’t expect too many from this generation to be sitting in a rocking chair at an old folks’ home.
Nevertheless, for all the boomer denial going on out there about aging, there are still some changes you’ll have to consider. And we’ve tried to itemize them, from financial planning and housing options to technology, personal enrichment, and downsizing.
Senior Housing: To Move or Not to Move?
American society’s notions of aging are outdated, says the Erickson School’s Ronch. And one of those notions from the World War II generation is that you’ll have the equity in your home to make new housing choices in your 60s or 70s.
“The assumption that you buy a house in your 20s and it becomes a repository for cash is no longer a universal situation,” he says. And that often means no nest egg for a move to a posh retirement community or a waterfront golf development in Florida.
Furthermore, many of today’s retirees, unlike their parents, aren’t looking for a peaceful place to live out their golden years surrounded by people just like them. While the continuing-care retirement community (CCRC) continues to make sense for those with declining health and the money for the entry fees, “the CCRC is based on a model of aging as leisure and decline,” Ronch says. “I’m hearing from CCRC operators that younger boomers are saying the model doesn’t work for them.”
Even so, Ronch says, “there’s an opportunity for the [retirement-housing] businesses that get it, and can pivot.”
What does that pivot look like? “Programs, options, and services will change,” says Scott Townsley, a consultant in national senior living with the firm Clifton Larson Allen, and a lecturer at the Erickson School. “Even the name has to change.”
The biggest shift in CCRCs, he says, is their expansion beyond brick-and-mortar facilities to offering services to non-residents, known as the “CCRC without walls.” At the same time, retirement communities are opening their doors to outsiders, to downplay the reality of age segregation. He points to Towson’s Edenwald, which offers its cafeteria to the public for lunch. “It’s in an area with a lot of businesses,” he says. “So now you’ve got younger adults coming in and saying, ‘This is pretty cool.’”
Dining is in many ways a litmus to determine whether a CCRC is playing to the incoming generation, says Ronch: “Younger boomers don’t want to eat at 5 p.m.” Townsley says he can tell if a retirement community “gets it” based on “whether they have craft beer on draft.”
Another area is fitness facilities, says Townsley. “People will want to move in if they think they will be healthier and live longer.” Communities should not “underestimate the size and scope of the facilities they will need moving forward,” he says. Many are building “eye-popping” wellness centers with swimming pools, weight training, and fitness classes along with the traditional physical therapy and rehab.
That doesn’t mean the CCRC as we know it will just fade away. “The idea of a communal setting, where people can socialize and enjoy recreation while getting seamless health care won’t go away,” Townsley predicts. “But there will be more options.”
One of those options, industry observers predict, will be retirement communities designed for residents of like interests, such as retired academics, health care professionals, or veterans.
For Aging in Place, You Need a Strategy
The aforementioned concept of a “CCRC without walls,” in which established residential institutions provide care to those who remain in their own homes, is a page taken from the playbook of the “village plan,” which steps in to help people age in place, Townsley says.
The Village Movement started in 2001 when a handful of older residents in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood banded together to help each other stay in their homes for as long as possible. They enlisted the able-bodied among them to check in on the more feeble, help with yard work, and drive to medical appointments, understanding that the favors would be returned in the spirit of old-fashioned neighborliness. The notion has grown exponentially, and more than 120 villages are currently operating in the U.S. and Canada.
Susan Newhouse has been working hard for the past five years to establish a village in Baltimore; started in Roland Park, Baltimore Village at Home is open to residents in 23 city neighborhoods. “The village offers a sense that you’re not alone,” says Newhouse, a specialist in geriatric care. “Even if you’re living alone, the village is behind you with resources and information.”
Along with its network of volunteers, villages typically maintain lists of “approved” contractors from roof repair to massage therapists for members, who pay an annual fee. Membership in Baltimore’s Village at Home is $800 for individuals or $1,200 for a household.
“The CCRC may have once been the ‘Darth Vader’ to The Village Movement,” says Townsley. The early proponents of villages were doing it expressly to avoid moving from their homes into age-segregated communities. But recently, CCRCs have actually started their own villages, setting up volunteer networks and offering specialized services to folks at home. “It makes sense,” he concedes, “when you consider that CCRCs are in the business of assisted-living and skilled nursing care.”
At the same time, the generation that makes its own rules is beginning to rethink its concept of home, according to Ronch. “Creative solutions come as second nature to boomers.” Co-housing and group-living arrangements, not unlike the communes of the ’60s and ’70s (only with more bathrooms) are becoming more common, he says. “This is a generation that knows about groups. We grew up with group therapy, consciousness-raising, and political activism. I expect to see a landscape of options.”
Enrichment in the ‘Dividend Years’
Remaining relevant and continuing to make a contribution to society is much more important to boomers than it was to most retirees in previous generations. And that’s what inspired Maryland House Bill 288 (and Senate Bill 700), which established the Baby Boomer Initiative Council, a group designed to explore ways the “50-plussers,” as Monica Schaefer calls them, can continue to play a serious part—whether or not they retire.
“Boomers are 78 million strong,” says Schaefer, a council member. And most over 50 “have two or three more decades of life.” The council was designed, she explains, “to look at what we can do in the dividend years, what we can do to remain productive after retirement.”
Schaefer started a nonprofit called the Visionary Institute for Total Ageless Living (VITAL) that provides resources to older adults, from job searches to nonprofit work. “I’m trying to match people in transition with nonprofits, agencies with a social mission, or encore careers,” she says.
Continuing education is one route to personal and professional enrichment: People over 60 can take courses at the University of Maryland—and most of the state’s community colleges—for free, Schaefer points out. Some in that demographic may take classes for a career boost, while others might be looking to pursue a dormant passion.
In the same spirit, Peabody Prep, normally the place for would-be child prodigies and young musicians, also has an Adult Continuing Education program, ACE. “Most are people who might have studied when they were kids,” says ACE director Larry Williams, who is also a professional horn player. “At this point in their lives, they want to do something for themselves, they want to pick up an instrument or study voice.”
Another member of the Boomer Council, Wesley Wilson, has put together a section on the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s website called “A Guide to Being a Boomer in Maryland.”
Wilson, chief of the State Library Resource Center at the Central Library, says today’s boomers aren’t interested in sitting still. “They want to get out into the community. There’s a hunger to stay active.” Users (see “Guide to Being a Boomer in Maryland” at prattlibrary.org) can search for jobs by industry or by skill, as well as search for cultural events, outdoor activities, and volunteer opportunities.
“People over 65 these days don’t want to go on bus tours,” says Marian Madbury, who founded the women’s adventure travel firm In Good Company a dozen years ago, when she was 50. The guided trips—most involve hiking, biking, or boating—aren’t age-segregated and Madbury says most have a wide range of participants. A recent backpacking trip in the Himalayas, for example, was populated by mostly women in their 50s. “We had one woman over 70, and two were going to celebrate turning 60,” she says. “We like to say, ‘It’s not your age, it’s how physically active you are.’”
Madbury has a good role model. Her mother, who died two years ago at the age of 98, went on a trip to South Africa when she was 88. “When she was 70, she came out to the Boundary Waters (in Minnesota, where Madbury lived at the time) to learn whitewater rafting.”
Packing Up is Hard to Do
“Aging in place” is a goal for the majority of aging Americans, according to the AARP. But that doesn’t necessarily mean staying in the shingled Ruxton Victorian with 1.5 acres of manicured lawn. And sometimes, health issues make staying put unfeasible.
For most, there’s eventually a move—one that generally comes sometime after kids have launched and before it’s time to repaint the shingles. Again.
These empty nesters aren’t ready for the old folks’ home, but they are ready for some maintenance-free living, often in busy city neighborhoods where they can enjoy restaurants and cultural events, as well as a concierge to sign for packages.
Ron and Donna Kurasik moved from their 3,500-square-foot Homeland house of 22 years to a condominium of half the size in a classic Charles Street high rise less than two miles down the road. “It wasn’t a big house, but it was a big maintenance project,” says Ron of the former residence. “Here, I don’t have to drag garbage cans out to the curb. There’s a garbage chute at the end of the hallway.”
The one-story living is also a plus, he says. He and his wife Donna “have knees that aren’t what they used to be.”
Moving was tough, says Ron. “It was hard giving up my eighth-grade shop projects” and he sold a 1910 barber chair that wouldn’t fit in the new digs. Sally McCabe, owner of Next Step Baltimore, a firm that specializes in moving and organizing, helped the couple figure out what to do with all their stuff. “She gave us suggestions about antiques shops and consigning,” he says.
When she initially meets with couples who are downsizing, says McCabe, “They’re like a deer caught in the headlights. They don’t know where to begin.” She helps them sort through their stuff to decide on its value—real and sentimental. “A lot of people will have children who can take things off their hands,” she says. She will suggest specialists for old and rare books and let people know that metal file cabinets are nearly impossible to unload. “The one thing that people can’t part with is the 4,000 boxes of family photos,” she says. McCabe has a list of firms happy to digitize them all.
McCabe encourages clients to hang on to the things they love. “If it’s Great Aunt Mimi’s Duncan Phyfe sofa that they grew up with and can’t imagine not having, I encourage them to find a spot in the new space,” she says. On the other hand, getting rid of things “can be very cathartic.”
The Kurasiks worked with McCabe and a decorator, Carroll Frey, to set up a floorplan for each room in the condo, so they would know exactly what to take. “We were able to fit almost all the furniture,” says Ron. “We think things look better here than they did in the old house.” The barber chair, alas, had to go. But Kurasik says he got a good price for it on eBay.
We’re gonna pay for this how?
Wayne Zussman is the founder and president of Triton Wealth Management, a financial planning, investment management, and tax planning and preparation firm with multiple locations in Maryland. He advises individuals, families, estates, and small-business owners on a range of investment and financial matters.
What is the value in delaying Social Security benefits?
According to the SSA’s statistics, 73 percent of retired workers received reduced benefits because they elected to take their benefits before full retirement age.
The first things to consider are your health, your longevity, and your family history of longevity. If you are not in good health, you might consider taking benefits earlier. If you are married, one of you might consider starting benefits. But in most cases, I like to see people delay as long as possible.
If you suspend Social Security benefits beyond your normal retirement age, you can earn delayed retirement credits. Each year you delay beyond your normal retirement age, up to age 70, you can receive about an eight percent annual increase in benefits received. Delaying benefits even by a few years can make a big impact on your long-term finances.
You can’t get that guarantee on any investment. If someone takes Social Security at 62 or 67, versus waiting until they turn 70, the break-even point (of money collected) is in the late 70s. If you expect to live past that—and the actuarial tables say you will—waiting is the wiser move. If you have sufficient savings to get you through, I recommend you take money out of your portfolio before collecting Social Security. The person who hasn’t saved will have fewer choices.
Is it too late to start saving?
It’s never too late. Start looking at things, tightening your belt. At the very minimum, max out your 401K by contributing $23,500 per year. Remember, you’re potentially looking at a 25-30 year retirement without income. Someone who is making $200,000 and wants to continue their lifestyle for 30 years without a paycheck has to save. It’s a fair amount of money.
What are some good retirement investments?
Keep it simple, stick with what you know. I have rental property, which is great. I will get a stream of income in my retirement. That’s my annuity investment. But I have to work at it. It’s my second job. As for investments, I use a baseball analogy: In retirement, you want to go for singles and doubles, you don’t want to go for home runs, because you’ll strike out. If you take on too much risk and 2008 hits again, then you’re in trouble. You don’t want to get fancy in retirement: Minimize costs, live within your means. In addition to investments, everyone (whether or not one is retired) should question and shop around for the everyday necessities of life. Ask yourself, “Am I paying too much for blank?” Fill in the blank with cell-phone service, groceries, dry cleaning, cable TV, life, or auto and homeowner’s insurance.
A lot of those hitting 60 are still putting kids through college. Any advice on that?
That’ll be me. A lot of times, the child dictates where to go to school; they’ll decide they want to go to a college out of state, and there may be no cost benefit for a lot of kids. You should save for your retirement before you pay for children’s educations. You can borrow for education, but can’t borrow for retirement. If someone’s going to med school, hopefully their income can pay for their own loans. Know your child, know the major, their drive. I tell my kids, “I’ll give you a state school. If you want more than that, you need to get loans, scholarships, and summer jobs.”
To your Health:
Here’s our primer on the increasing complexities of health insurance in the post-Obamacare era:
What is the difference between Medicare and Medicare Advantage?
Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) are a way to get your Medicare coverage through a private plan. They are managed-care plans and often referred to as HMOs and PPOs. Medicare Advantage Plans are run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. They include all benefits covered under Medicare A and B, and may cover prescription drugs and extra benefits. Individuals pay monthly Medicare Advantage premiums in addition to paying Medicare Part B premiums.
What is a Medigap plan and how do you know if you need one?
Medigap (Medicare Supplemental Plans) are sold by private insurance companies to fill in “gaps” and help pay for some health-care costs that Medicare does not cover. There are 11 Medigap plans offered in the state of Maryland. Individuals pay monthly Medigap premiums in addition to paying Medicare Part B premiums. It is important to join a Medigap plan during your open enrollment period, that is, six months from the time your Medicare Part B begins. Different rules for open enrollment apply for Medicare beneficiaries under and over the age of 65 regarding which plans you may choose. The Maryland Insurance Administration’s website, mdinsurance.state.md.us has important information regarding Medigap plans and pricing. If you consider purchasing a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) or buying a Medigap plan, then note that the start date for Medigap coverage or a Medicare Advantage Plan should coincide with the start date for Medicare.
What is long-term care insurance and when is the best time to buy?
Long-term care insurance is designed to cover long-term services and supports, including personal and custodial care in a variety of settings such as your home or in a nursing home. It is sold by private insurance companies. Insurance companies use the principle of medical underwriting to determine health status, pricing, exclusions, and limits for coverage. Companies differ in their medical underwriting practices, so consumers are encouraged to comparison-shop for the best product and price. Many companies have upper-age restrictions on issuing coverage, therefore it is recommended to consider coverage early. The Maryland Insurance Administration has excellent information on long-term care insurance at mdinsurance.state.md.us.
Has the Affordable Care Act changed my Medicare coverage?
The Affordable Care Act does not reduce or take away Medicare coverage. Beneficiaries can still choose their own doctors or continue to see their current doctors. This standard applies to beneficiaries with original Medicare or Medicare Advantage.
If you have prescription-drug coverage through Medicare, then the “donut hole” is a temporary limit on what the drug plan will cover for drugs. The Affordable Care Act reduces the percentage of payment while in the coverage gap or donut hole. By the year 2020, individuals will pay the same co-payments until they reach a catastrophic coverage level, and their co-payment responsibilities are much smaller.
Our source was Michelle P. Holzer, program manager of the Maryland Department of Aging’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which offers free, unbiased, confidential counseling and support in every county to help Medicare beneficiaries understand their health insurance coverage and options. Holzer has been studying Medicare and managing the state’s SHIP since its inception more than 25 years ago.
Mr. Technology is your Friend
Following their mother’s stroke, Steve Frantz and his five siblings were able to share the tasks of caring for her so she could remain in her home. Frantz, who lives in Mt. Washington, says he’s grateful that the family could band together. “I’ve run into others who didn’t have that extensive support network,” he says.
An information technology project manager, Frantz began to volunteer for Baltimore Village at Home (see story, page 150), helping older residents with their technology needs—from hooking up a smart TV to helping upgrade a computer, he says.
In the coming years, says Erickson Dean Judah Ronch, “technology will be a game-changer” when it comes to assisting the aging population. Not only will medical records be more integrated, but people will be able to monitor their own health, and, when necessary, share information with family and friends. Technology will help with social interaction, mobility, transportation, and safety within the home, he says.
But first, says Galina Madjaroff, developers have to recognize the vast market potential. “Most technology is being developed for the 25-35 age group,” says Madjaroff, a doctoral candidate at UMBC specializing in technology and older adults. “There’s a huge gap between what the older generation needs and what the industry is providing.”
Helena Mentis, assistant professor of information systems at UMBC and Madjaroff’s thesis adviser, agrees. She points to wearable technology, seen by some as the next frontier. FitBit, a bracelet that monitors physical activity, sleep, and other inputs “has taken off with healthy twentysomethings,” she says. But that technology could also be used for older folks “to make sure they’re moving enough,” and in some cases, “to see if they’re engaging in social interaction.”
Mentis describes sharing Google Glass with a 72-year-old, who became excited about taking snapshots throughout the day to share with grandchildren. And the same technology, she says, could be used to monitor daily activities. Wii Fit-style programs are being used for physical therapy, and so-called “smart homes” will get even smarter, adjusting climate, lighting, and other systems to keep residents healthy and safe, Mentis says.
Most boomers will be quick to point out that they aren’t intimidated by technology—after all, their generation invented it. And it’s impossible to lump the over-50s into one group, says Mentis. Some may be comfortable with a Bluetooth phone, while “someone in their 90s may say if it’s not attached to wall, I don’t know what to do with it,” she says. “But in this day and age, when families are separated, the ability to use a cell phone and Skype can improve everyone’s life.”