Unless you just haven't been paying attention, you know that today, January 1, 2011, marks a significant milestone for the boomer population. The oldest boomer turns 65 today - and in this year alone, 7,000 boomers will reach this milestone EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Currently, boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) make up 26 percent of the American population. That's rougly 78 million people in this one generation. Some 13 percent of the total American population is 65 or older, but by 2030 (when today's youngest boomer hits 65) the percentage of Americans 65 and older will reach 18 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.
So, how are these newly-minted 65-year-olds feeling about this new milestone? Here are 11 things I learned about them from a new study by AARP:
1. Most will work past the traditional retirement age of 65. In fact, 40 percent say they expect to never retire. There are a lot of reasons why many will continue to work, but I like to think some are inspired by Sally Gordon, who, at 101, is still working!
2. On average, boomers turning 65 in 2011 expect to live to be 85.2 years old. Asked how long they wanted to live, they answered, on average, 88.7 years.
3. Some 78 percent of boomers turning 65 this year say they're satisfied with the way their lives are going.
4. Asked to describe the next five years, today's 65ers were significantly more positive than they were just five years ago. 87 percent used the word "hopeful" and 84 percent described life as "fulfilling."
5. Boomers' interest in taking care of themselves and becoming - or staying- healthy is at the top of their list of priorities.
6. Achieving financial health made the list of top priorities for 35 percent of boomers hitting 65.
7. Overall, 70 percent of those surveyed (about 1,500 people), said they had achieved all or most of what they wanted in life.
8. About 40 percent said they are about where they expected to be financially at this stage in their life. Put another way, 60 percent - a vast majority - are NOT where they expected to be. See item number one.
9. Boomers still dream of traveling. In fact, when asked to name a dream or ambition for the next five years, the number one answer, at 18 percent, was "travel." Number two was to "improve health."
10. Asked what barriers would keep them from achieving their dream of traveling, the top two answers were "having more money" and "having better health." Obviously, they go hand-in-hand.
11. It was especially gratifying to see that 54 percent of respondents said that among the important life changes they plan to make in the next few years is volunteering more.
I am optimistic about what the boomers reaching this new milestone will do next. In my experience, boomers are optimistic, hard-working problem solvers who want to leave the world a better place. So, in many ways, 2011 isn't about the end of an era - the oldest boomers hitting a ceiling - it's about starting a whole new phase of life, one in which many great things can still happen. Here's wishing all milestone boomers a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year!