The New Meaning of Retirement.
By Stein, David

The 21st century may be known as the era of lifelong learning and lifelong
working (Longworth 1999). Retirement, the end stage of a linear working life,
may be replaced with a learning, working, leisure, working, learning life cycle. In
a cyclical living and working model, participating in the work force never ceases
but is interspersed with periods of
leisure and learning. Full-time
work may be interspersed with
periods of flexible working
arrangements such as part-time,
seasonal, occasional, and project
work (Brown 1998; Dychtwald
1990). The traditional notion of
retirement may be replaced with
lifelong working--in various
positions and in varying amounts
of time throughout adult life. In the
future a declining birthrate may result in a shortage of skilled and
knowledgeable employees (Dychtwald 1990), making the notion of retirement for
older workers a serious drain on organizational productivity. Increasing
demands for work force productivity, a projected shortage of skilled and
experienced workers, and older adults who are healthier and living longer than
previous generations are powerful societal forces shaping future employment
practices (Imel 1996).  

Two decades ago, Sheppard and Rix (1977) forecast the changing nature of the
workplace and suggested that keeping older persons in the work force would
make sound economic and social policy sense. Yet Ginzberg( 1983) raised a
most challenging question by asking to what extent is our society ready to make
work for an increasing number of older adults who choose to remain in the
workplace while also providing opportunities for young adults: if employment is
not a possibility, then what is our obligation to provide adequate financial
support? Morrison (1990) noted that social policies were needed to encourage
and support employers retaining older workers. Today the fastest growing
segment of the population is the older adult. Still, the decision to remain or leave
the workplace is a function of organizational policy (Eastman 1993). This Digest
examines this trend and looks at ways adult educators can create and sustain
working environments supportive of the needs and capabilities of older workers.  

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