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Aging boomers: burden or boon?
Will boomers be boon to economy?

 Trainer Elizabeth Reighard spots for Mary Smith during a workout at the North Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Aquatic Center.
STEVE JESSMORE/MYRTLE BEACH SUN-NEWS
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Date published: 12/29/2012

BY FRANCO ORDONEZ AND CASEY CONLEY

McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

WASHINGTON

--With millions of baby boomers reaching retirement age, fears are mounting of the economic impact if they follow the pattern of previous generations by curbing spending and draining Social Security and Medicare benefits.

But the 78 million boomers--born from 1946 to 1964--have always broken the mold in terms of setting trends, and some investors and business and community leaders see their retirement as no different. They see an unprecedented, multi-billion-dollar opportunity to offer new products and services to an active demographic group that's expected to live longer than previous generations.

When Elizabeth Reighard started her fitness training business in Myrtle Beach, S.C., four years ago, most of her students were in their mid-30s. But now her client list is made up mainly of boomers, such as Mary Smith, 58, who hired Reighard to help her "keep up with the grandkids."

The demand for fitness trainers such as Reighard is expected to jump 24 percent in the next decade, largely because of baby boomers who want to stay healthy longer, according to the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook released in March.

"I'm seeing it more and more. Seniors know they have to be in better shape to have less aches and pains," said Reighard, who's also a boomer. "Yeah, we're getting older, but our bodies feel good. I look in the mirror and I might look 51, but I feel 25."

The Census Bureau projects that Americans 65 and older will make up 19 percent of the population by 2030.

On the labor front, the health care industry is the most obvious benefactor of a longer-living active community. Demand for home health aides is expected to grow 70 percent in the next decade, according to the Department of Labor.

Demand also will be high in less obvious fields, such as for architects, who will be called on to build senior-friendly communities; financial advisers to help boomers plan their retirements; recreation workers, who will lead boomer-tailored excursions; and job trainers, who will teach the new workers called on to replace retirees.

"It's only in Washington that 100 million people are viewed as an unaffordable cost and financial burden," said AARP's Jody Holtzman. "In the private sector, [they are seen as] a market and an opportunity."