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The age wave

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A North American will turn 60 every eight seconds, according to Ken Dychtwald, a keynote speaker at the Urban Land Institute's fall meeting held from Nov. 1 to Nov. 4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

With two-thirds of the population living past age 65 and the number of older Americans steadily rising, the impacts on the economy and the real estate industry will likely be great, he said.

For much of human existence, 99 percent of the people didn't live past the age of 18. Even 100 years ago the average life span was just 47 years. Currently, the average life span is 76 years. As a result, the world has been designed for young people. Now America is forced to transform and evolve as the 20th century redefines all the current models of aging.

Dychtwald, who calls the 20th century the "age wave century," said that half of all the girls born this year will live to see the 22nd century.

To accommodate the increase in older Americans, retirement plans, life plans and workforce issues will all have to change.

America and the rest of the world will have to stop "designing the future based on yesterday," he said.

One of the biggest differences from the past -- and a likely factor in America's changing lifestyle -- is the changing balance between generations.

While in the past most people stuck to the traditional life model of education, marriage, career and then retirement, that model has now gone to the wayside as people seek to reinvent themselves multiple times throughout their lifetime.

"The linear life plan model is over," Dychtwald said. "People want to still learn, work and recreate."

Now Americans are participating in what Dychtwald refers to as the "cyclical" lifespan, where reinventing one's self is a common occurrence throughout life. As a result of this transformed life model and the baby boomer generation, which is defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, the world will have to change the way it looks at retirement, the economy and the real estate market.

When Otto Von Bismarck drafted Europe's first pension plan, the age he set for retirement was 65. At that time, the average life expectancy was 47.

Nowadays many workers are choosing to continue working past the age of 65.

Dychtwald pointed out that astronaut John Glenn went into outer space at 77 and Tina Turner went out on tour again at the age of 65. Both are prime examples of the youthful exuberance of older Americans.

With an increase in people living longer, they will have more time to purchase products and real estate.

"Ten to 15 percent of all boomers are thinking of buying a second home," Dychtwald said.

As older Americans are working past the traditional age of retirement, the workforce has become more diverse, resulting in an employee base that wants a variety of different rewards from their jobs.

Older workers, who Dychtwald refers to as "mature workers," are seeking security and pride from their job.

On the other hand, baby boomers want empowerment and meaning from their job, and younger workers, those defined as Generation X, seek friendship and knowledge from their job.

Along with the diversity in the workforce come different financial motivators, Dychtwald said.

Mature workers want to ensure that their finances are secure, while baby boomers want security and access to cash.

Generation X simply wants cash, he said.

An author of 11 books on aging-related issues, Dychtwald said this diversity in generations can result in strengthening America as different generations are learning to work together.

But as the older Americans look toward retirement, whatever age that may be, the way in which they get there is much different then from the past.

According to Dychtwald, there are four paths to retirement.

These four paths include "ageless explorers," those with the highest net worth who are also youthful and still choose to work; "comfortably content" retirees who have planned their retirement so that they can relax the rest of their lives; "live for today's," those who didn't save at all for their retirement; and the "sick and tired" who have given up all hope on life.

Dychtwald said it is also important to note that what retirees want out of their retirement also differs.

Where they choose to live is much different, with just 42 percent of retirees choosing to stay in their current home, he said.

Dychtwald list the most popular post-retirement home locations as California, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona and Florida.

He also said that many retirees are choosing to live in non-traditional retirement homes, such as living clubs, which are similar to time-shares and allow them to move around often.

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