Baby Boomers in retirement

By Wayne W. Clark PhD and Woodrow W. Clark PhD.          

Despite the catchy title, most likely there will not be a post pandemic for years to come. Any read of the history of pandemics shows that they do not just go away easily, overnight (1918 pandemic). So, Baby Boomers that have 20-40 years of life left on this earth, there will be some challenges and new ways of doing things. Initially we would point out two areas of concern. Each area comes from the current state of where we are now, in the midst of COVID 19, and what we have to do to be resilient, as well as the prospects for new ways of living.

Healthcare for seniors will be provided less and less in nursing homes, and more and more where we can age in place. Many of the variations for aging in place are already here: such as living with our children and grandchildren; living in communities where care is just around the corner; living in one’s residence where health care assistance is brought into the home; access to telemedicine; and home delivery of medicines, food etc. to the residence. These options are all open to use already. I am sure with our entrepreneurial spirit, there will be expansion of what is currently available as well as many more ways of staying health in place.

The first basic reason for the change in nursing home alternatives is simply the basics to preventing pandemics, social distancing, isolation, and especially not congregating with more than five or ten people. Nursing homes  can be “petri dishes of disease”, even at the most expensive and exclusive places. This concern is not to disparage nursing homes or to discount many dedicated healthcare workers that staff them. Instead the potential for any disease spreading amongst a vulnerable population is greater when the population is congregated together. Baby Boomers at this stage in our lives are often in a nursing home due to comorbid health conditions, a double risk factor. Now we need to expand ways those of us needing care in place and in the future so that we will find new ways to care for us as we age in place.

The trend toward minimizing nursing homes as the most appropriate care giving environment is here today. Certainly hospitals have found ways to reduce the spread the virus to patients and staff in their facilities. But nursing homes have not been as successful. If nursing homes would try to replicate hospital care they would become prohibitively expensive. There will be a change in where and how baby boomers get health care and we should prepare for it. The change should be part of the foundation of advice given by financial planners, life coaches, and others that serve the elderly. We should be aware that those boomers with health conditions are coming, but not to your door. Instead you will be going to their door.

The second area of baby boomer change will occur on two fronts. Travel especially in the cruise industry will no longer be predominantly a senior activity, for the next 10-20 years. Boomers will not risk their lives in places where on board cruise efforts have not successfully quelled the epidemic. Cruise ships and shipping vessels thus far have not been able to control the virus once on board (Cruises future). Instead the travel industry experts say travel will be more local, regional, and virtual (hotels post pandemic). Travel movies, TV shows, and visual replications of experiences will be prominent while actual hands-on experiences will be less sought after. Certainly, this will impact all phases of the travel hospitality industry including hotels, vacation housing, and resort areas. All these distance trips are already impacted, not only the use of airlines to get to and from these places (Airline industry), but also the rental car and hotels will be vulnerable. Travel will not go away, but it will be more selective, more cautious, and more local.

There is a bucket list of other things that boomers no longer will be willing to do. For example, climbing the Andes; skiing in the Alps; hiking Appalachia trail; or even going to the beach. Boomers and their families will find new ways to congregate, maybe around a swimming pool or small dinner parties to celebrate holidays. All of these activities will be at times substituted with new technologies (e.g. Zoom) and other technologies used to interact with friends and families virtually just not in person.

Another baby boomer experience of leisure is in the entertainment and sports arenas, this too is already changing dramatically. Or should I say not in an arena, but on your home media outlet? No longer will we be going to crowded sporting events (season ticket holders), theaters, and music halls. We will have new alternatives hopefully more healthy alternatives as our mainstay. There are many reasons this lack of social contact and crowd enthusiasm will be sorely missed  new sports  . The human in person experience should not be under-rated, we have become used to the benefits of being eye to eye, within reach, cheering each other on, all with a sense that you had to have been there. Yes, we are fortunate to have the benefits of new technology, but we still will seek that in person human touch.

Those in charge of other gathering places such as religious meetings are already extolling the virtues of their gatherings as important means of social interaction (drive in services). Being in one place together is an important part of social interaction. I am sure there will be ways it will be replicated, one possibility is the use of holograms where small groups of fans and parishioners can observe together. The observers can see three dimensional light fields right in front of them, even though they as observers will not be in large stadiums, mega churches, or other venues but the actions will be replicated right in smaller more controlled settings like living rooms. In sporting events, fans will have the opportunity to freeze action, go to the fridge, restroom, drink, and have dinner in the comforts of their home. This new way of observing will mean vast changes in traffic getting to the venue, the size of crowds in attendance, the seating arrangements, the length of the lines to get food, and use of restrooms, and even the opportunity to not be in close proximity to obnoxious fans that lose control on both sides.

Instead watching sports or other crowed events will be very different. Frankly watching games at home is often better since the cameras are focused on players and the action on the field. Above all the home view of sports and other events can be recorded, played back, and viewed if a spectator was otherwise occupied at the time. Baby boomers are a significant portion of the participants in the tours, cruises, and observers of sporting events, theater shows, and religious service gatherings. But for the next few years at least, many boomers will be observing the events virtually from home. Baby Boomer healthcare and leisure activities will thrive. The resilient baby boomers and their families will have new ways to stay healthy, enjoy their favorite activities and be entertained albeit at a distance.