"For Boomers returning to the workforce or who want to remain on the job it is increasingly important to update their technological skills, whether it's learning about what an app does or how to store something in the cloud."
Baby Boomers are making no small plans when it comes to their retirement years. A substantial majority, in fact, plan to work after age 65 or foresee never retiring at all. Many are turning to a centuries-old institution to navigate this brave new world: the public library. Here, through classes and workshops, they are orienting themselves to 21st century skills and technology that will help them remain relevant.
It is estimated that roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 daily for the next 19 years. But unlike previous generations, they are not necessarily resigning themselves to the proverbial rocking chair. More than one-third (35 percent) of Affluent households with a net worth of less than $1 million (not including primary residence) plan to retire between the ages of 66-70, according to a Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner wealth level study. Across age levels, the highest percentage (31 percent) of those who plan to retire past the age of 70 were seniors over the age of 65.
These findings were underscored in a recent Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey which found 65 percent of Boomers plan to work after age 65 or do not plan to retire. One-fourth report having a backup plan for retirement income in case they forced into retirement sooner than they had planned, while 65 percent are focusing on their health so they can continue to work.
Four-in-ten said they are keeping their job skills current, 16 percent are networking and meeting new people, and 14 percent are researching the job market in search of new opportunities. And it is the venerable public library that is an ever-evolving community one-stop resource to provide the self-marketing and technological skills they will need.
Public libraries and resource centers, far being musty relics, are offering job seekers and career-rethinkers expert advice in workshops or one-on-one mentorships from professionals volunteering their services, or directing them to the best online resources. At the Glencoe Public Library in Illinois, staff has seen an uptick in Baby Boomers requesting information how to form a business plan for a new venture, job hunting techniques, and how to craft a resume.
Julie Johnas, director of adult services at the Highland Park Public Library, has noticed an increasing interest in digital literacy” among its older patrons. “They were not born digital people (like Millennials),” she told Millionaire Corner. “They can afford the devices, (but there is a need to) learn how to use them and understand the technology. For Boomers returning to the workforce or who want to remain on the job it is increasingly important for them to update their technological skills, whether its learning about what an app does or how to store something in the cloud."
Classes in Microsoft Office 2010 are proving “exceedingly popular” with Boomer-aged patrons at the Skokie Public Library, observed Christie Robinson, manager of marketing and communications. “We have increased our number of programs related to jobs and careers. We have a monthly career support group for which half of attendees are Baby Boomers.”
Boomers’ retirement work ethic is in part a desire to stay engaged and remain a vital and contributing societal force, but it is also an economic imperative brought about the recession, which hit Boomers especially hard, according to the Transamerica study. Four-in-ten reported declines in home values, while almost half (46 percent) saw drops in their investments. Reports of layoffs and reductions in hour and/or wages is consistent across all generations, the study found.
Boomers comprise a good portion of visitors to the Career Resource Center in Lake Forest, Illinois, an employment resource for nearly 25 years. “The work environment today is a revolving door,” said Jane Leahy, executive director. Studies show that the lifespan of a job is currently two to four years. That changes a lot of things. Before, people might work at the same job for 15-20 years and earn a substantial severance. Now, you’re lucky to get a week of severance, which does not give you any base on which to conduct a job search.”
Public libraries and resource centers provide more than information, Leahy added. They are also a supportive and reassuring haven. “People like coming here,” she said. “There is a lot of camaraderie. You feel like you belong someplace.”
Related story: Jobs for retirees to be more common as boomers delay retirement
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.