Why Baby Boomers Should Rethink Retirement
By Deborah KotzUS News & World Report
Posted: January 25, 2010
Robert Butler regularly works 12-hour days, and he recently hopscotched, in the span of six weeks, from the Netherlands to Dubai to Davos, Switzerland, to drum up support at various conferences for research on preparing for the coming age boom.
At 82, the scientist, expert on successful aging, grandfather, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author—who coined the term "ageism" four decades ago to describe discrimination against the elderly—is living proof that humans, like fine wine, can deepen in complexity with time. As 2009 drew to a close, he was "preparing to visit my daughter in Palm Springs before heading to Canyon Ranch for a week of exercise."
The head of the International Longevity Center, a research and policy organization he founded two decades ago to "maximize the benefits" of aging, is committed to identifying and spreading the word about ways to get older people out of their armchairs, eating more healthful foods, and engaged in work and learning along with their golf and bridge.
Nonsense! he says in response to doomsday predictions of what's bound to happen as nearly 80 million baby boomers enter their twilight years—among them, that the skyrocketing costs will bankrupt the nation.
Yes, action is called for, but catastrophe is hardly inevitable, Butler argues, and in fact, there's reason to look forward to a golden age of aging. Seniors today are living more independently; fewer of them are dying of lengthy and debilitating bouts of cancer thanks to improved screening, better treatments, and a drop in smoking; and they're happier than they were in the past, according to a 2008 University of Chicago study. "We need to alter our thinking about old age," Butler says, and realize that it "can be positive and constructive."