Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Grandparenting: Truly, A 'Next Great Thing'

Over the last two years, I've talked about the transition of dozens of people out of their careers to "the next great thing."  There are questions about identity, the hurt of being fired, being too busy (rarely not busy enough), getting out of sync with a still-full-time-working spouse, finding new adventures, and learning to say no to the many ideas and offers that bubble your way. And much much more.
What I've barely written about is the Greatest Next Thing that most of us wish for -- or cherish if we are lucky enough to already have it. The elephant in the room. Namely, grandkids. Perhaps almost subconsciously,  I've largely avoided touching on the grandparent role, though I now have four delicious grands, including one born just 8 months ago. Why has it been such a small part of this blog, yet such a big part of our lives?
I think because self-identifying as a grandparent is an admission of age. And also a window into the soft side of ourselves, the side that is not striving for an independent identity, continually on a path of discovery. Yet grandparenting, especially for those who step in on a regular basis, requires tremendous energy, as I discovered and did write about -- once -- in  Grandmalympics earlier this year.
For now, here is a wonderful essay by Sally Friedman, a writer who is tackling the deeper meaning of grandparenting and its own challenges. For instance, relating to children and young adults who are two generations behind you, especially when the buffer generation of their parents (your children) is not present.
Enjoy her insights and wisdom.
And let me know your thoughts on the challenges and self-discovery grandparenting brings and how to balance time with grandkids with time for yourself, to pursue other ventures.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A New Survey: Work is Us

Here's an astounding statistic from a new survey on work after age 55:

"By 2020, an estimated one fourth of American workers will be 55 or older, up from 19 percent in 2010."
Which, of course, raises all kinds of questions. If one-fourth of workers are 55 or older, are they valued for the work they're doing? Is their wisdom and experience being put to good use? Are they being forced out of their jobs? And when do they really want to retire? 
In the just-published survey by the AP-NORC Center for Public Research, some of what I've been writing about in the last two years is quantified. 
This chart, showing the rising age of retirement,  from the report ("Working Longer, Older Americans Attitudes on Work and Retirement") says a lot: 

Here are a few nuggets from this phone survey of more than 1,000 people age 50 and over.
On feeling valued -- or devalued:
54 percent of retirees under age 65 feel they had no choice but to retire compared with 23 percent of retirees 65 or over.

 * 20 percent of people 50 or older say they have personally experienced prejudice or discrimination because of their age in the job market or at work since turning 50, including being passed over for a raise, promotion, or chance to get ahead; receiving certain unwanted assignments; or being denied access to training or the opportunity to acquire new skills because of their age.

* Having an older or a younger boss makes a big difference in how you see your value. 
Thirty-nine percent of people who have a boss older than themselves consider age an asset to their careers compared with 20 percent who have younger bosses. And those with older bosses are more likely to report that they feel they have the respect of the company, are more likely to get desirable assignments, and that their experience is valued by colleagues, who turn to them for advice.

 *But a majority -- 62 percent of adults age 50 and older -- say their age is not or was not an issue in their work life and career. However, that response varied with their occupation. Those who work or worked in professional services are most likely to consider their age an asset (28 percent) compared to those who worked in  sales, retail or clerical (13 percent). Very few of those in construction, manufacturing, and farming felt age was an asset.  

* Age is a major factor in the technology industry, where 42 percent of those 50 and older considered age a liability to their career. 

On working for pay:
*Among those who are working and not yet retired, 47 percent say it is very likely or extremely likely that they will do some work for pay during their retirement and another 35 percent say it is somewhat likely. Only 10 percent say it is not too likely and only 7 percent say it is not at all likely that they will work for pay during retirement. 
(Note, nearly 40% of those surveyed said that not counting pensions and Social Security, they only have $100,000 or less in savings and investments stashed away for retirement -- so work, for them, may be critical.)

*Half of Americans 50 and older report that most or almost all of their friends and family members who are around their age are still working.

On the joy of working: 
*90 percent of those who are working and not yet retired report that they are somewhat or very satisfied with their jobs.

On delaying retirement:
* In the five years before the Great Recession starting in 2008, the average reported retirement age was 57; since then it's risen to 62. 

On the mental aspects of work:
* 18 percent of workers age 50 and older say it is much more or somewhat more difficult to
complete the mental aspects of their job compared with when they were younger, 30 percent say it is much or somewhat easier, and 51 percent say it is about the same.

On being "old."
Finally, the survey explored the definition of "old." As I've written before in "A Rant on What You Should Call Me," calling someone "old" is a fraught.
While on average, adults 50 and older think a person becomes old at 71.5 years, that idea vanishes the closer you get to it. Only 15 percent of those 65 and older agree that that's "old." And those with more money think "old" is further and further away.

Here's the full report.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Avery Rome: Call it a "Gap Year!"

Avery Rome: On a 'Gap Year'
I ran into a former colleague a few months ago – a woman who for many years held a top editing job at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Avery Rome had decided to take a buyout about a year after I did, and I asked her what she was doing.

She said she was trying out all kinds of things – working in a community garden to raise fresh crops for a local food cupboard, studying Russian drama, taking Coursera classes (on movies, ancient Greece and the modern novel)  --  and loving it.

“I’m really curious about things I haven’t done,” she said.

When she told friends who were still working what she was up to, they didn't say much. Maybe they couldn't connect. And so, Avery explained, “I’ve recently come up with the phrase for what I'm doing. It's ‘a gap year.’ That,” she said, “people can relate to.

“Sometimes I think people who are still working scroll through what you’re telling them and ask themselves, ‘Would I do that? Would I do that?’ If what you’re doing doesn’t interest them, they change the subject.

“Starting a new career or teaching literacy might explain my not being a journalist, but lollygagging is hard to understand.”

Here’s some of what Avery is loving about her gap year.
Gardening, for one.  “I find it a great meditation and I think about all kinds of things. I just love getting that close to nature, learning about bugs and plants. I love using my hands now. A part of me just wants to do physical things.”

Less stress is another. Like so many of us, she poured herself into the survival of her company. “I like not worrying about how to hold the paper up,” she said.

Having what she calls “loose days.”
“Loose days mean you can go and help out your kids or your grandkids. I have a friend whose husband is ill. I spend time with her. I show up. That freedom to be charitable, if you will, to be giving rather than receiving is a great joy.”

Giving herself permission to indulge in ways she hasn’t before. Like not necessarily getting up early. And having time to read the paper before the day starts. Or watching movies any time.

“The Coursera movie course, called The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound and Color, was great. It gave me license to watch movies in the middle of the day,” she said. “You can’t drift like this when you’re raising kids or paying off a mortgage. This leisure is a gift of this time of your life. I see daylight more than I have in the last 34 years. I’m much more aware of the weather. My life now would be really boring to someone who is driven, someone who’s a high achiever. So I back off in those conversations and I just ask them about themselves.”

What’s next for Avery when her gap year ends, if it ever does?

Avery says she might get involved in politics, supporting candidates who could do a better job. Or study to be a master gardener. And she has by no means abandoned her craft. She will be teaching a writing course this spring at the University of Pennsylvania, where she has long taught. And she wouldn't walk away from a big project.

“The whole thing is finding the balance. If you float too much, you think why aren’t you busier? I don’t know what we’re measuring ourselves against.”