Bridging the ‘Boomer’ gap

By Melissa Hirschl

If you remember The Beatles singing I Want to Hold Your Hand on Ed Sullivan’s long-lasting TV variety show, chances are you’re a Baby Boomer. If you recall listening to the top 40 tunes on AM radio and watching only three channels on television, it’s a no-brainer--you’re the genuine article.

And, as such, you’re dealing a brand-new hand to overseers of the retirement game.

Substantially higher numbers of retirees are causing health and social service agencies to scramble in an effort to keep up with the wave of new demands that will soon confront them.

With retirees in better physical condition than ever before, classic “senior centers” will no longer be able to adequately fulfill the needs of this new, dynamic age group.

Longer life expectancies also will pose a variety of new challenges. Thus, it’s easy to see why society needs to invent a whole new paradigm for this upcoming crop of “boomerees.”

According to AmeriStat Population Reference Bureau, the generation born between 1946 and 1964 represents the “richest, healthiest, most mobile legion of 60-somethings in world history.”

Not everyone is sitting back and waiting for it all to happen, however. The city of Tempe, among others, is responding to the trend of this “betwixt and between” generation in notable, creative ways.

On four consecutive Thursday evenings--Oct. 28, Nov. 4, 11 and 18--residents can engage in a comprehensive Life Planning Workshop, designed for those making the transition from midlife to meaningful retirement.

Participants will be examining where to focus their priorities and energies in such potential problem areas as financial planning, spirituality, health and wellness, care giving, leisure, computers and relationships.

Discussion designed to bolster life-mapping skills will address such questions as:

How do you want to spend your retirement?

Do you want to travel around the world?

Are you interested in starting a new career or volunteering?

Where do you want to live?

“Life planning is not a ‘one-time event’ because it goes beyond traditional career and retirement planning efforts,” says Tim Cox, social services supervisor for Tempe and the course’s instructor.

“Life planning defines how you want to live, what you want to do and who you want to be as you continue into the next phase of your life.

“Together, we’re going to actively create a plan for the future and identify the resources that will be needed. We’ll identify the participants’ strengths, passions and purposes, while learning the right mix of options between work, service, learning, family and leisure.”

There are a variety of instruments that Cox says he will administer during the workshop to keep it diverse, stimulating and thought provoking.

Participants will write their “Strategic Life Plans” in terms of health, relationships, leisure lifelong learning, housing and finances.

Participants will receive personality questionnaires, condensed versions of the long-recognized Myers-Briggs Indicator Test. A typical question would be: At a party do you interact with many people, including strangers, or just a few you are comfortable with?

Answers, says Cox, will help the participants make life choices with which they will be stimulated and satisfied.

The workshop is just one spoke in the wheel of “Tempe Connections,” a collaborative effort between citizens, educational institutions and more than two dozen community organizations.

A three-year endeavor, according to Cox, the plan is aimed at providing one-stop-shopping for boomers.

“We are trying to connect this large group with information and programs they need to remain informed, engaged and happy community participants,” says Judy Tapscott, city of Tempe social services manager.

“We aim to provide them with ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ services as well as entice them to share their skills and experiences for the benefit of all age groups in Tempe.”

Tempe Connections is part of the Life Options initiative, the Phoenix-area effort to create a system of  lifelong learning, meaningful civic engagement, social connections and assistance for resource navigation.

The initiative is sponsored by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, as well as organizations such as  Civic Ventures and Libraries for the Future.

“It will be the hub of program planning, social connections and information-and-referral services,” says Tapscott.

Other farsighted plans for the initiative include Connections Café, a food area within the Tempe library that will act as the focal point for socialization. Connected to it will be meeting and program space reserved specifically for Connections participants.

The initiative also plans to provide workshops that stress information on resources, job-seeking skills, volunteering, re-careering and fitness.

“There has been a lot of excitement about the potential for new services for the baby boomer population in Tempe and surrounding areas,” said Tapscott.

“Our steering committee met and planned these services over a six-month period. The energy built on itself; we think that we have planned something very significant, and look forward to the opportunity to develop Tempe Connections into a national model.”

The Life Planning workshop fee is $30. For information, call (480) 350-5435.