Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Going It Alone

It’s official. More boomers than ever have made the decision to go it alone. Demographers at Bowling Green State University analyzed census data and found that the divorce rate for boomers over the last 20 years has increased by more than 50 percent. At the same time, more boomers are remaining single. Around one third of adults ages 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010, while back in 1970, it was only 13 percent.

Why should you care? Most elderly persons depend on their spouses for care, but with so many boomers opting to go it alone, federal and local government may very well have to pick up the slack. If you are an unmarried boomer, you are five times more likely to live in poverty than married boomers, and three times more likely to be receiving public assistance of some kind (foodstamps, disability, etc.).

The increased numbers of older, unmarried boomers is driven by a number of factors. We’re living longer and that means some boomers are faced with remaining longer in an unhappy marriage. Women have become more financially independent and therefore more willing to live on their own. And the stigma of divorce is almost extinct, so there is less social pressure to marry or stay married.

Many of these unattached boomers say they experience a sense of liberation when they decide to go it alone. It’s a chance to start over and remake their lives, even if it comes with a high degree of risk and uncertainty. They often find new partners to live with, but marriage is not in the offing. The number of unmarried adults ages 50 to 64 living together but not married is on the rise when compared with 2000.

The new found freedom does come at a price. Battered by the recession, these unattached boomers may not have children or financial cushions to fall back on, which means there could be financial hardships in their future.

For now, at least, the sense of liberation and independence outweighs the risk. How many of us want to spend today worrying about tomorrow?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Messages From Beyond

Oh. My. God. That’s what you will be saying when you get a load of a new messaging service called myobitlist.com. These enterprising folks seem to think that there is a surging demand for ways to let your online friends know that you’ve moved on to the great beyond.

That’s right, for just $47 (they call it a lifetime fee) you can have a message that you have authored sent to your online contacts so that they know you’re dead. And you can can sign up for a 2 week trial period, which had me wondering what happens if you die in those first two weeks. Will they send your message out anyway? I mean fair is fair.

You say you have more than 50 online friends? (you’re one of those Facebook addicts who’s friended the entire population of Croatia) No problem. Myobitlist offers a premium package for $87 (that’s a lifetime value) that will get the word of your demise out to 200 of your online buds.

It’s like a Constant Contact mailing from the great beyond, only it might more accurately be called Not So Constant Contact since you get only the one message before the lights really go out.

The Youtube video that extolls the virtues of this service is hilarious, if only because you keep thinking that you’re really watching someone’s crazy clip over at Funny or Die. But there is no punchline at the end of the video to let you know this has all been a spoof and it’s not real.

Their main pitch is that if something were to happen to you (i.e. you drop dead), who would tell all the friends you’ve accumulated over your lifetime. We live in such a “connected” world now, that it would be just awful if all those connections were to be ignorant of the fact that you’re gone. As in logged off permanently.

One can only presume that as baby boomers approach the finale of their lives, many more services such as myobitlist.com are going to be there for us. Either that or a truly enterprising group is going to come up with a way for us keep on sending messages from the hereafter. Talk about Facebook hell!

I’m thinking that it’s either going to be called Heaven Sent or Hell Bent, but one way or the other, we’re going to stay connected.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

Reaching their retirement years, some former commune residents are actively planning to head back to the place where they spent their formative years. That’s right -- they’re Going Back Up The Country -- and probably playing Canned Heat on the ride up!

Known as intentional communities, a term applied to living situations where the residents have common values or vision for their collective lifestyle, these communes are attracting boomers who have fond memories of life on the commune.

It’s estimated that there about 4,000 intentional communities and the Fellowship for Intentional Community has a substantial directory organizing them by type and location. There may be as many as 100,000 people residing in these communes

For many, the attraction is a simpler back-to-the-land lifestyle and a distaste for the materialism outside the commune. They may have outgrown the concept in their twenties and moved on to the conventional material world, only to find that now that they are in their sixties, they miss the spirit of collective living.

The newest trend is for first-timers who are taking a serious look at co-op housing options. The living quarters are smaller but there’s much more common space that is shared by all. It’s a recipe for interdependence that many boomers find most appealing.

Can you really live out your final years on a commune? Hard to say. Commune members from the earliest days in the late 60s are just now reaching that place in life. A few never left the commune and have marked their 40th anniversary there. If you’re an aging boomer, you would have to think long and hard about whether the commune’s collective spirit can support you well into your final days. Part of the equation is attracting younger commune members who will take on the task of supporting the oldest residents.

So it’s a gamble for many returnees, who have to hope that the communal spirit will be sufficient to meet their needs. But it may not be any riskier than any other retirement plan that relies on property values, investment success, good health and a decent social security benefit.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.