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When I am 64. Are you recruiting a whole new generation of volunteers?
19 July 2006
by Thomas W. McKee

I, like Paul McCartney, am 64 and although not officially part of the post World War II babies called “Boomers” who are just turning 60 this year, I identify with this growing number of potential volunteers who are entering their retirement years with an unprecedented vitality. Just as we all made the proclamations that “40” was the new “30”, and then “50” was the new “40”, we now claim that “64” is the new “50” as we usher in an entirely different kind of graying population that refuses to fall prey to the rocking chair.

In other words, we are not your grandfather’s grandfather.

"The baby boomer generation has changed almost everything," said Mark Beach, spokesman for AARP (which, by the way, no longer stands for the American Association of Retired Persons, as many of their members are not retired). "They're not even thinking of age as a limitation . . . These days, many retirees are embarking on second careers or steady volunteer work after the Social Security benefits start trickling in, Beach said, and a notably active lifestyle means an increased emphasis on travel, fitness and adventure. . . . The notion of retirement is changing and we're going to see that more and more," he said. "People aren't sort of bound by the cultural constraints that they used to be."

"We're not going down without a fight. This generation is just not going gently into that good night," said Jan Reisen, co-founder with Pete Kooiker of boomer blog Aging Hipster. Now, boomers such as Reisen joke that their kids are free to put them in a retirement home, but it had better have high-speed Internet. "I don't think we have the perception that we're going to be old and used up and of no use," she said. "I think we're going to be very noisy.”

When Paul McCartney wrote the song in the late ’50s, the average life expectancy was 69, which was only five years older than those of us who are 64 today. And by the way, the 64 club (those who have turned 64 this year) includes Harrison Ford, Aretha Franklin, Barbara Streistand, Garrison Kiellor, Donna Mills, Muhammad Ali and Calvin Klein. And we now don’t buy the teenager McCartney’s picture of "the good life" largely consisting of knitting by the fireside in a rocking chair. In 2003 (the most recent year for which statistics were available) the average life expectancy was nearly 78, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Though most people assume they'll retire at 65, most actually do so at 62, according to the Center for Retirement Research. Many of my friends are more active in volunteer work than they have ever been, and they bring to the volunteer organization their experience and professional skills. Most of them say, ‘I’ve never been so busy, and I love it.”

But be careful when you recruit the 64 year old. Remember these important issues.

Your cause is our mission to make a difference

We were ready to change the world in the 60’s and still believe in causes. So make sure that your mission is something that people can get excited about. We don’t want to make a contribution--we want to make a difference.

Your vision is our opportunity to fulfill a dream

My wife, Susie, who will quickly point out that she is not yet 64, is a ESL college professor teaching graduate students. I have been a speaker and trainer for over 40 years, and we dream about volunteering to teach either overseas or in our country. But we don’t want to stuff envelopes, we want to fulfill a dream.

Your professional needs are our expertise

We don’t want to stuff envelopes. Wow, that doesn’t sound like we are interested in getting our hands dirty or doing labor. We are not afraid of jumping in with the team when a job needs to get done. We have stuffed thousands of envelops, set up hundreds of chairs and tables, cleaned bathrooms and swept floors; however, the organization that is still using high quality, professionally trained volunteers only to do unskilled labor, will lose many 64 year old volunteers. We want to be recruited to use a life-time of professionalism to help you accomplish your vision. And we are not alone.

Don’t miss the opportunity to recruit the 64 year old professional. But do it right