In each generation, foolish advice is often mistaken for brilliance. In the sixties, for example, a well-known rallying cry was, ‘Don’t Trust Anyone over Thirty.” Twenty years earlier, the line was, “Live fast. Die young. And leave a good-looking corpse.” That line was actually more memorable than the movie it came from. In any case, neither line is exactly a pearl of wisdom. But each generation owns its own silly if not mind-numbing nuggets.
Today, Boomers, those born between 1946-1964 – perhaps the most prolific generation in history – are thankful they quickly forgot these rallying cries. Otherwise, they would not have made it this far, to the threshold of retirement and more than ready to pass on the baton. It’s estimated that Boomers are retiring at a pace of nearly 10,000 a day. But unlike previous generations, Boomers aren’t the retiring type.
“It’s not the end of the road,” says Kelli Fritts, of Colorado AARP. “Retiring is just a bend in the road.” Fritts is the State Director of American Association of Retired Persons, a national organization that lobbies on behalf of retired people. But, being retired doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on the porch counting down the minutes to the ‘Early Bird Special.’
Today’s retirees, along with people who have reached the once-dreaded ‘Five-Oh,’ have a lot of life left and want to make sure they live it. Who are they? For starters, they’re the ‘who’s who’ of entertainment, academia, politics and millions of others. Today’s ‘seniors’ are actors, from Edward Olmos to Meryl Streep to Johnny Depp, singers Madonna and Sheryl Crow, Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, all of The Rolling Stones and, the country’s most famous over-fifty guy, President Obama.
Today, older people and retirees are doing things their parents never dreamed of doing. Seniors are climbing mountains, jumping from planes, hiking ‘fourteeners,’ and a lot more. Not simply to stay active, either.
“I had a wonderful time when I was young,” says Fritts. “But I’m so grateful for right now, too.” While age, naturally, draws some boundaries, older people adjust and move ahead. And with a flair unlike any generation before.
“It’s different nowadays,” says Robert Rey, an AARP community organizer. “We’re not our parents or grandparents. We exercise more and are more conscious of things we have to do to stay in good health.”
Rey, 63, is religious, though not fanatical, about lifestyle. “I run four or five times a week, lift weights and just exercise,” he says. He’s also keenly aware of diet, often the cause of things like high blood pressure and cholesterol – two health issues that have plagued older people, particularly Latinos.
“I retired at 62,” says attorney Awilda Marquez. But despite not having to go to work, which included stints in the Clinton White House as well as time working in Denver City Government, the ebullient Marquez has almost outraced her shadow with her frenetic travel pace.
While retirement has meant the freedom to go places, wanderlust has been in her genes from an early age. “By senior year, I knew I wanted to go on adventures,” she says. Two weeks before college, “I told my mother, ‘take your money back. I’m not going to college.’”
She then took her savings and “got a one-way ticket to Europe,” where she visited countries she’d only seen on a map or in a movie. “I hitch-hiked my way through Europe for a year, slept on the ground, stayed in hostels and just took everything in.”
When she returned, Marquez finished college and law school. But on her time off, she also took up skydiving and continued to travel. Earlier this year, her travels took her to Kenya and Uganda, where she hiked the bush and mountains to see gorillas in a natural habitat.
“I don’t know if travel keeps me young or young at heart,” says the 66-year-old Marquez. “What I do know is that it has been a great part of my life.” The retired world traveler makes only one concession to age. “On every trip I go on, I’m the oldest,” she says with a chuckle.
Marquez says her globetrotting avocation has only been possible because of a lesson she learned and was stressed early and often. “My mom taught me how to save. So for my entire working career I saved until it hurt and when I retired, I had a pile of cash
Her nest egg allowed her to pay the $2,500 for the Kenya-Uganda excursion. Her next planned trip, to Cambodia and Vietnam, will be a little more – about $5,000 more. But, Marquez sees it more as an investment in her life than purely an expense or extravagance.
Marquez uses pushpins on a map she hangs on the wall at home to tally the places she’s visited. Beside her recent trip to Kenya and Uganda, the pins record stops in Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Italy, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Turkey. Of course, this list is only since retirement.
Her passport is also stamped with trips to Amsterdam, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean Islands, Chile, England, Spain and Uruguay. What it won’t be stamped with is Russia – “I won’t give (President) Putin one (expletive) cent!” Marquez also is “not really interested in Denmark, Norway or Sweden.” If she needs to see Scandinavia, “I can watch them on TV,” she says with a laugh.
The Maryland ex-pat who has made Denver her second home also has no plans to visit Antarctica. “I would love to go but it costs about $45,000. I’m not going to spend that much to go to just one place.”
The over-fifty crowd will be hitting the road regularly in 2015. In a recent survey, AARP says this growing demographic will be taking “four to five” trips this year. And why not? According to U.S. News & World Report, Boomers – not millennials – control 70 percent of the country’s disposable income. They will also be spending it. An average Boomer vacation will cost between $1,000 and $5,000 this year.
The majority of these trips will be within the United States but more than 40 percent will be international. The most popular international destinations for Americans? London, Paris and Rome.
But leaving home isn’t for everyone. For Denver retiree Lilly Flores, travel would be great but staying close to home is also just fine. Flores’ escape is books. “I love to read,” says the vibrant senior. Through books, Flores has traveled the world and enjoyed – vicariously – the grand adventures that have flowed from the imaginations of great writers. And when she’s not ‘traveling,’ Flores, says simply, “I like to meet new people. People are good for me. They make me laugh, smile, feel good.”
Despite her voracious appetite for books, Flores, like many in her age group, says a sedentary life is not an option. She walks every day, weather permitting. “I love being outside,” she says. “It keeps me young.”
By: La Voz Bilingüe