"Retirement is dead." says Chuck Underwood, a former sportscaster turned human resources consultant who helps employers manage generational differences.
Underwood, whose Ohio-based business is called The Generational Imperative, identifies three ages of retirees:
GI Generation. Those who served in World War II and the Korean Conflict who are now 86 and older. "If their bodies permit, this generation is still working -- for pay or volunteering. "Walk into any American Legion Hall on a Saturday night, and you'll see them. They don't know how to sit back and take."
Silent Generation. "This generation is enjoying more physical and mental vigor than any prior generation, thanks to modern science, medicine and nutrition. They also tend to feel like they played it too safe when they were younger, and today, they want to do things that keep them vital, active and plugged in. Because our economy is shifting to a service economy, there are many jobs available to this generation that aren't physically demanding and that take advantage of their decades of workplace wisdom."
Baby Boomers. "They will simply never retire because they define themselves by their work. This is a generation that has always tried to live up to the extraordinary opportunities their parents and grandparents created for them -- at such great sacrifice during the Great Depression and World War II. No matter how much they do, they'll never think it is enough. They are idealistic, empowered and fully engaged. This isn't a a generation that wants to retire at 65 and spend the next 40 years flopped on the beach. They might retire from career No. 1 and take time to exhale. But then they'll jump into the next career, return to college, join the Peace Corp. They might consult or run an online business from their spare bedrooms, but boomers always will define themselves by their contribution to something else bigger than themselves."
The other factor that will keep older people on the job is the economy, Underwood acknowledges, but he's optimistic that this factor will modify retirement planning, not demolish it. He says the Great Recession "ravaged the nest eggs of baby boomers and silents, so it is good fortune that most of them have the skills and attitudes" that will allow them to stay on the job.